The NFU report published today (June 29) is based on an investigation into the corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies of the 10 largest UK supermarket chains.
NFU director of corporate affairs Tom Hind said: “Over recent years, many retailers have sought closer relationships with farmers and growers. They have developed standards to meet the expectations of groups of consumers, set up dedicated pools in some sectors and sought to champion UK and local sourcing.”
Scope to improve
But there remains significant scope to improve UK sourcing. “All of the retailers we looked at could do more to establish clear baselines and targets that can be measured on policies such as sourcing,” said Hind. “All could do more to highlight the role of Red Tractor Assurance schemes. And all could do more to strengthen relationships with farmers across all sectors.”
UK sourcing places retailers in a better position to address some of big issues that both they and farmers face, he added. Those included: meeting consumer demand for high quality, affordable food, responding to climate change and other environmental pressures and investing for future competitiveness.
Research from the IGD and others has shown that consumers are increasingly looking for British, seasonal and local food, he said. “Public concerns about buying power lead many people to demand that big businesses adopt more responsible commercial policies.”
Stronger, more trusting relationships would help to address not only consumer concerns about animal welfare or the environment, but also ensure that and create a climate in which businesses are more confident about investing, he said.
To read the full report, click here.
Meanwhile Robert Wiseman Dairies, now part of Muller, had announced a 1.7p/litre cut in its milk price to farmers from August 1.
City analysts Shore Capital said other dairy processors were also likely to cut their prices “given the virtual absence of profitability in the liquid segment”..
NFU dairy board chairman Mansel Raymond warned: “This cut is a catastrophic example of the hypocrisy and unfairness that prevails in certain parts of the British dairy industry.”
NFU grocery study – at a glance
- Waitrose and Morrisons’ policies on sourcing place them very favourably, with commitments to 100 per cent UK sourcing in a number of areas.
- Sainsbury’s 20by20 commitments to double UK sourcing have the potential to make a significantly positive impact on UK agriculture.
- Marks & Spencer’s Plan A incorporates a number of important elements that benefit UK farmers in terms of investments in research to extend growing seasons and create market opportunities for farmers and growers.
- The Asda Farmlink initiative and R&D programme offer some good examples of positive farmer engagement and approaches to sustainability. Tesco and Sainsbury’s have both created major dairy pools with specific pricing commitments that benefit farmers.
- Discounters Aldi and Lidl are starting to put significant emphasis on UK sourcing. Aldi offers 100 per cent British fresh meat commitments.