UK horticulture – the ongoing issues and what the NFU is doing

First published: 29 November 2022

An image of a tractor at work in the rhubarb fields

Photograph: Exposure Photography

With costs soaring and unsustainable farmgate returns, the UK horticulture sector is under substantial pressure. The NFU’s food business unit and horticulture teams have been engaging with members and stakeholders in the supply chain to tailor our support for the sector.

What the NFU is doing

We have spent the past two months attending member meetings to gather evidence on the key issues and challenges experienced by you when dealing with the supply chain.

Many of the key themes have been based around poor communication not helped by a regular turnover of buyers leading to high levels of inexperience within the sectors.

We have held a range of meetings with grower organisations, board members and regional members from the East Midlands. We are also due to hold another session with growers in Kent.

A Policy Adviser of the Week session was held to share the work being done by the food business unit with the regions and country advisers.

The NFU is writing to Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick about our concerns over visas for seasonal workers in the future and members are being urged to sign the letter before 29 November 2022.

Visit: British growers – add your name to our letter to the Immigration Minister

Promar horticulture inflation report 

The NFU commissioned a follow-up Promar report which was released last week and highlighted the cost pressures growers are under, as well as the need for a skilled and secure workforce. This report has been shared with supply chain stakeholders and government officials. Visit: The real impact of cost pressures on the horticulture sector | NFUonline.com

Media coverage of the report

The NFU press team has ensured the Promar report has been highlighted in a range of national media coverage.

National board members were interviewed on the BBC News at 6pm and 10pm, and quoted in the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and in an article on the BBC website.

The report has also featured in The Grocer, Farmer’s Weekly, Fresh Produce Journal and Horticulture Week.

There was further coverage of the report in the Sunday Times (behind paywall), the Daily Express and the Independent.

NFU President Minette Batters was also interviewed on BBC Radio 4's PM programme where she spoke about the spiralling costs for fruit and vegetable growers.

Retailers

We have sent a letter highlighting the crisis within the sector, as well as sharing the key findings of the Promar report, to all CEOs of the major grocery retailers. We are now arranging meetings with senior officials in response to the letter, with Sainsbury’s and Aldi already confirmed.

GCA (Groceries Code Adjudicator)

Because many in the sector are primary suppliers into retail, we have built our relationship with the new GCA, Mark White, to bring the key issues to his attention.

In October, Mr White attended a session with members of the NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board to expand on the work he is doing with retailers to monitor compliance of GSCOP (Groceries Supply Code of Practice).

Feedback gathered during the member meetings is being collating as an evidence document to share with the GCA so that Mr White can discuss the issues directly with the compliance teams within the retailers.

Member toolkit

Our toolkit supports members to better manage their supply relationships and cost price discussions.

The toolkit includes:

  • Links to a range of training courses including CPI (cost price inflation) workshops, GSCOP and negotiation
  • Business guides including a seven-point plan to ensure successful CPI discussions
  • Links to our contract checking service

 

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