Farm co-operative wins new pea deal

THE future of pea growing on around 150 farms in East Anglia has been secured with the signing of a new contract.

In February this year, Birdseye shocked growers by announcing that it would not be renewing contracts to supply peas to its Lowesoft processing plant, following the loss of a major export order.

The decision brought to an end a tradition of pea growing in the region stretching back 64 years.

But now, the Anglia Pea Growers co-operative has agreed a new deal with Kent-based forzen fruit and vegetable processor Ardo UK to take a 14,800 tonne crop next year.

The deal will be worth an average of about �20,000 to each of the farmers taking part and will involve the planting of some 3,500 hectares of peas next spring for harvest during the summer.

Ardo UK, which is part of the Belgian-based Ardo group, will be funding new pea preparation equipment at a site in the Lowestoft area, with the proposed investment and preparation contract securing 38 jobs.

“East Anglian peas are an excellent product, grown to the highest standards,” said Stephen Waugh, managing director of Ardo UK.

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“We are delighted to secure this contract, which is very welcome news for both British farmers and consumers. The produce will be grown, prepared, packed and consumed within the UK, adding value at every stage.

“We are confident that there will be strong demand from our customers for this quality British product and look forward to a lasting relationship with East Anglian growers.”

Richard Hirst, chairman of Anglian Pea Growers, added: “East Anglia has a long history of pea growing and is well known for the quality of its product.

“The deal with Ardo UK is very good news for our members and will bring back a valuable source of income to their farms following the loss of a major pea contract in 2010.

“Peas are a high value product and an integral part of the farming process as they serve to fix nitrogen in the soil and can be harvested in between other main crops,” he added.

The peas will be harvested from late June and then prepared and frozen within two and a half hours of being picked to ensure maximum flavour and vitamin-value is maintained.

The peas will then be packed at Ardo’s premises in Kent ready for sale and distribution.

Pamela Forbes, regional director for the National Farmers’ Union in East Anglia, said: “This is excellent news for the 150 growers involved, and for the wider rural economy.

“Pea growing has been a real success story in our region, with growers producing a high quality crop with low food miles and low environmental impact.

“The cancellation of the Birdseye contract in February came as a real blow so we’re delighted that locally-grown peas will now be back on sale next summer.”