Farming unions urge more support from retailers during 'difficult time'

Retailers have been told to increase local sourcing and to make supply chains fairer
Retailers have been told to increase local sourcing and to make supply chains fairer

Farming unions have written to the UK's biggest retailers urging more support for British farmers in response to challenging and disruptive weather this spring.

The letter, by the NFU, NFU Scotland, Ulster Farmers' Union and NFU Cymru, calls on supermarkets for commitment to support the industry during this "difficult time".

Exceptional rainfall and a succession of damaging storms have impacted livestock, arable and horticultural sectors and disrupted individual farm businesses.

No area of the UK has escaped with lambing, calving, planting and field work all proving difficult and bringing additional cost to the business.

In the joint letter, the unions seek retailer commitment to support the farming industry, including a pledge to ramp up local sourcing and for supply chains to be fairer.

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."

The unions say they are in discussions with government on further support to assist the industry in navigating these short-term challenges.

However, the important role which retailers have to play in helping farmers to withstand this latest crisis is also needed, they say.

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.

"We need your support more than ever to maintain food production across the UK and safeguard our food security."

What does the letter ask for?

The unions ask major retailers to implement the following measures in support of farmers:

• Commitment to local sourcing: Unions have asked retailers to honour existing sourcing commitments which they have made with respect to local suppliers.

• Fair supply chains: Retailers told to respond promptly to any request from farmers for a review of the terms of their contracts, including price.

• Flexibility on product specification: Supermarkets told to show understanding and flexibility as food may not fully conform to the exact specification previously agreed.

• Rapid payment of suppliers: Ensuring rapid payment to suppliers across the supply chain will be a significant help to farmers keep their businesses functioning.

• Promotion of local suppliers: Unions have asked for more promotional efforts in support of local suppliers.