Growers primed for negotiating success

An unanimous seal of approval has been given to the first NFU Grower Representative Summit, as growers looked to improve their negotiation skills and contractual terms with their customers in the horticulture and potatoes sector.

The event, the first of its kind in the sector, saw over 50 growers and their representatives take part in a two-hour workshop on successful contract negotiation; sharing best practice across other sectors of agriculture and understanding the support, knowledge and guidance available to bolster their position.

Lee AbbeyNFU horticulture and potatoes adviser Lee Abbey said: “The event was borne out of the NFU’s desire to forge better relations in the supply chain – under the banner of its Catalyst for Change report – as part of which we felt it important to dedicate time to the people at the coalface of managing contract negotiations and customer relationships and play our part in supporting representatives in the vitally important work that they do.

“Our report highlighted that growers can sometimes feel dictated to by buyers on pricing decisions, often receive contracts very late in the season and would like more guidance on developing clear and transparent pricing formulas. The summit explored all aspects of contractual relationships and, without exception, growers told us that they gained something valuable from it. With representatives clearly so eager to develop their skills we hope this is just the first event of its kind.”

Advice from the day’s speakers on methods for succeeding in negotiations varied from understanding the market to identifying the roles of the negotiation team, but most agreed that preparation was key.

NFU Sugar chairman William Martin said: “I’ve never been in a meeting and thought ‘I was far too prepared for that’. You need to know the answers to all the questions before going in and, once you do, it is tremendously empowering.”

Simon Baxter, Norton Cider Growers Association chairman, said the event had been a great help because of the importance in understanding the full spectrum of terms being negotiated.

“While price is very important it is not everything. It is profitability which leads to the sustainability of our business,” he added.

Concluding the event, NFU chief legal adviser Nina Winter announced the launch of a new NFU business guide on understanding contracts and the terms and conditions to be aware of. The guide is free to members and available on the NFU website.