Farming unions urge major retailers to back British farming

Person pushing supermarket trolley

Photograph: Kwangmoozaa/iStock

Industry writes to retailer CEOs as challenging spring across the UK brings sharp focus on food security.

UK farming unions are calling on major retailers’ commitment to support the industry during this difficult time in response to extremely challenging and disruptive weather this spring.

Exceptional rainfall and a succession of damaging storms have impacted livestock, arable and horticultural sectors and disrupted individual farm businesses the length and breadth of the country. No area of the UK has escaped with lambing, calving, planting and field work all proving very difficult and bringing additional cost to the business.

A joint letter on behalf of the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and Ulster Farmers’ Union, seeks major retailer commitment to support the industry during this difficult time.

‘Perfect storm’ of challenges

The letter states: “These challenges come at a time when many of our members are already struggling to remain viable due to the perfect storm of sustained and spiralling production costs, low market returns, and increasing levels of regulation.

“This latest challenge, whilst not new, is more acute than ever, and is compounding the pressure on our members.

“Farmers and growers continue to bear the lion’s share of the risk within their supply chains, and this is unsustainable. We are in discussions with our respective governments on further support to assist the industry in navigating these short-term challenges, but we also recognise the important role which retailers have to play in helping the industry to withstand this latest crisis.”

Key asks

The UK Unions ask major retailers to implement the following measures in support of their members:

1. Steadfast commitment to local sourcing

We ask that you honour existing sourcing commitments which you have made with respect to local suppliers. Sending a clear signal of support to these producers would send a powerful message and give comfort at a time where our members’ wellbeing is already under severe strain.

2. Fair Supply Chains

You will understand average food prices in the UK are already some of the lowest in the world despite our members producing it to the highest standards. We ask, therefore, that you respond promptly to any request from our members for a review of the terms of their contracts, including price.

3. Flexibility on product specification

Producing food in these extreme conditions presents a significant challenge and our members will do their utmost to maintain their exceptionally high standards of production. However, in the face of these unprecedented challenges it is possible that what we produce may now not fully conform to the exact specification previously agreed.

We urge you to show understanding and flexibility in these circumstances; our food will still be produced to exceptionally high standards of quality and safety.

4. Rapid payment of suppliers

One of the immediate short-term implications for our members is the pressure on cashflow due to the increasing costs of animal health, feed and labour. Therefore, ensuring rapid payment to suppliers across the supply chain will be a significant help to our members to keep their businesses functioning.

5. Promotion of local suppliers

Your customers already have a solid commitment to supporting local suppliers and we know from our own recent research that their commitment is stronger than ever. We ask that you continue your promotional efforts in support of local suppliers; we know that UK consumers want to keep on enjoying the high-quality food which we produce.

Support needed now more than ever

The letter concludes: “It is no exaggeration to say that the current challenges are some of the most acute the industry has faced in a very long time, and we need your support more than ever to maintain food production across the UK and safeguard our food security.

“Our members will continue to work tirelessly in the face of this latest adversity to maintain their high standards of production and welfare that your customers have now come to expect.

“We now urge you to support our members’ efforts.”

Read the letter in full:

UK farming unions letter

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