UK: NFU’s farming challenge to retail giant Tesco

NFU President Peter Kendall at the National Farmer's Union annual Conference this year

NFU President Peter Kendall at the National Farmer's Union annual Conference this year - Credit: PA

FARMERS’ leaders have called on supermarket giant Tesco to help bring profitability back to British farming and put more British food on British plates.

In a speech to the National Farmers’ Union Council this week, Tesco commercial director Kevin Grace underlined the retailer’s commitment to British farmers.

At the NFU conference in February, Tesco chief executive Philip Clark made pledges on two-year contracts and shorter supply chains.

The retailer, which says says it wants to give customers more information about suppliers and how they work, agreed to simplify its complicated supply chain and introduce “world-class” traceability and testing.

It says it will source from British farmers where it is “reasonable to do so” and will build on existing farmer groups, offering a minimum two-year contract to those that want them.

Mr Grace said there was a huge opportunity to create a supply chain to be proud of.

Responding to Mr Grace’s remarks, NFU President Peter Kendall said: “We’ve heard Tesco re-affirm its pledges today and that they’ve began work on making those changes but the clear message from my members is the need to return a fair price for the food they produce.

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“No-one is in this business to lose money and so my challenge to Tesco is this; British farming has got to be profitable.

“The only way that farmers can make the long-term investments that are so desperately needed is by making a profit that allows for that reinvestment in their business.

“For this to happen we must have trust and confidence that the commitments being offered by Tesco will deliver.

“From their pledge, we need to see Tesco’s commitment to source more of their meat closer to home, and on longer-term contracts, put into practice.

“And there also has to be a real tangible increase in the amount of cattle, lamb and poultry meat sourced from British farmers as well as commitments made to other sector such as dairy and horticulture.

“For our part we will help Tesco talk to farmers, to make long-term commitments that aid profitability and build stronger farmer groups as soon as possible. It is important we hear about the progress being made and work together to make the most of the fantastic opportunity that does exist for everyone, and which Kevin Grace has talked about today.

“By getting things right today will help to ensure we have it right for tomorrow. With this in mind, we are also working with Tesco to encourage young people into agriculture by exploring scholarship schemes. By ensuring short supply chains, direct from British farms to retailer, we can get on the right track, ensure the long-term profitability of British farming, and put more British food on British plates.”