Corporate misbehaviour undermining Britain’s food security
Earlier testimony on this subject came from Lee Woodger, Head of the NFU’s Food Chain Unit, Peter Kendall, NFU President, addressing the EFRA committee and Andrew Simms, author of Tescopoly , but yesterday it was summarised in the Farmers Guardian [11.5.12].
A list collated by the NFU gives examples of ‘the sort of bad behaviour retailers have indulged in over recent years’, including:
- Buyers requiring a fee from potential suppliers so they could be considered as suppliers
- Suppliers asked to pay to have a product displayed on the shelves
- Forced contributions from suppliers to run promotions
- Unilateral and retrospective changes to contractual conditions, mostly prices.
- Unilateral breach of contract by the buyer.
- Exclusivity clauses/ requiring a fee from suppliers in order to be their exclusive customer
- Imposing payment for waste processing removal, for example of perishable products past their best-before date.
The Fresh Produce Journal reports that NFU is now investigating the fresh produce supply chain and will publish a report in summer detailing extremes of retailer, packer and processor behaviour, expose bad practice in the chain and make recommendations for improving relationships and transparency between growers, packers and retailers.
Why does this undermine Britain’s food security?
Year after year dairy farmers choose or are forced to leave the sector and we will become ever more dependent on imported milk – at present 40% of the total food consumed is imported. As supermarkets stock foreign produce when ours is in season, our fruit and vegetable growers have been adversely affected.
The supply chain is sensitive to economic, political and environmental events; these include:
- natural disasters
- animal disease
- sharp rises in fuel and other input costs
Promote self-sufficiency in staples rather than relying on global markets for food
The NFU president, Peter Kendall rejects the suggestion that the UK could rely on global markets for food. He defends the food export bans that some countries put in place following record rises in food prices in 2010-2011 and ends:
“I honestly believe that a country short of food trying to protect its own people’s supplies by banning grain exports is nothing compared to rich countries allowing their agriculture to decline and then expecting the rest of the world to feed them.”