The Potato Farmer Pledge is split into three elements. First, the company has introduced a three-to-five-year loyalty scheme to reward farmers that continue to grow. Second, it has launched a fund to which growers can apply for grants to invest in improving sustainability and capacity. Finally, McCain is pursuing sustainable contracts with its suppliers.
The business has front-loaded the £25m investment by allocating 40% of it to projects this year. It believes suppliers need it most during this period thanks to the impact of severe weather and the ongoing disruption caused by the coronavirus.
To honour all its grower contracts, McCain has worked to minimise wastage by reallocating potato varieties normally earmarked for foodservice to retail product lines. It has also donated surplus stock to food banks via its partnership with redistribution charity FareShare and – where possible – stored potato stock for use next season.
Daniel Metheringham, director of agriculture at McCain GB & Ireland said: “The last two years have seen two of the worst potato crops in the last 40 years and this paired with the impact of COVID- 19 has left our growers with a number of challenges including bad crops and surplus potatoes.
“McCain growers saw an average 18% reduction in yield in 2018 and 16% of our 2019 storage crop was still left in field. This pledge is about doing all we can to help our growers and we can’t thank them enough for all their work.”
McCain’s pledge has been endorsed by the National Farmers Union, with president Minette Batters echoing the call to support the industry during the global pandemic.
“We’re pleased to see McCain taking a leadership position and providing this much needed investment opportunity and making a commitment to support their growers, and we look forward to working with McCain to help ensure that British potato production has a strong and sustainable future,” Batters added.
Meanwhile, a new €5.4m (£4.87m) support fund to help food and drink startups navigate the challenges of the coronavirus outbreak has been announced by innovation and investment group EIT Food.
McCain’s Potato Farmer Pledge
- Multi-year Incentives: A three–five year loyalty scheme rewarding farmers who continue to grow. The programme will help support the farming, hospitality and retail industries through a more stable and sustainable supply of potatoes.
- Grower Grant Funding: A fund to which growers can apply for grants to invest in harvesting capacity and improved sustainable potato growing through irrigation infrastructure and innovative new technology such as self-propelled harvesters. There have already been 85 applications from growers to date.
- Sustainable Contracts: Alongside honouring contracts during COVID-19, McCain is optimising its contracts. Improving prices on early season varieties, so farmers get fair prices, and building greater flexibility into the farm-to-production system, to reduce delays. This is in addition to the Indexation Model which measures changes in the costs of production to ensure fair and sustainable contract pricing for growers, a method