Union Calls for Better Retailer Support for Scottish Farming

SCOTLAND, UK - NFU Scotland is calling on all UK retailers to commit to getting behind Scottish farmers, address supply chain issues and ensure food producers share in the rewards as well as the risks.
calendar icon 21 December 2015
clock icon 4 minute read

The past 12 months has seen NFU Scotland’s engagement with retailers reach new levels, much of that work being undertaken jointly with fellow farming Unions to promote all Scottish and British produce. Some positive signs are emerging and that must gather momentum in 2016.

In an intensive programme of meetings, all retailers have accepted that for all sectors – red meat, dairy, cereals, poultry, soft fruit and vegetables - the collapse in global market values means that the returns to all farmers have been consistently below the cost of producing the food.

This saw some retailers making commitments to pay more for some products, and others who have given consumers greater opportunities to support Scottish agriculture.

However, challenges remain. In the peak production period for Scotch lamb, Scotland’s farming union discovered significant volumes of imported lamb on supermarket shelves. That led to NFU Scotland successfully informing shoppers of where they could go to be assured the lamb would be Scotch and those selling imported lamb were urged to increase their Scottish or UK offering.

Growing its relationship with retailers, NFU Scotland has also worked together with several major supermarket chains to hold a number of promotional events outside stores. That has seen hundreds of NFUS members meeting consumers while offering tasty Scottish food, promoting the Scotch label and Red Tractor standards and educating shoppers about the fantastic story that Scottish farming has to tell.

While there has been good progress in the last year, it is clear that supermarkets can go much further to support Scotland’s hard working farmers, while delivering greater quality to Scotland’s shoppers.

NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie said: “It is positive that some retailers are making good progress in the way they source and promote Scottish produce but there is still a lot of room for most of our big supermarket chains to step up.

“It has been a hugely difficult year for Scottish farmers in key sectors, and NFU Scotland has worked tirelessly with other Unions to encourage support for Scottish and British produce across retail and food service sectors. And as we go into 2016, we need these companies to increase their commitment to work with the farming industry to underline the quality of our produce and improve our resilience.

“In 2015, our activity at supermarkets means that our members have been more visible and active than ever before, speaking to shoppers, offering Scotch beef, lamb and cheese to taste, and promoting high quality assurance standards. The farmers involved say that they receive overwhelming support from shoppers who want to be able to buy more Scottish produce.

“But we need retailers to respond to that demand. Last month we welcomed Marks and Spencer’s announcement at the Scottish National Premier Meat Exhibition that it is increasing the window in which it sells home produced lamb, following months of discussion with NFU Scotland. This is fantastic news which supports Scotland’s farmers and satisfies the demands of Scotland’s shoppers.

“And while we were disappointed to discover significant volumes of imported lamb on Tesco shelves during peak season, we continue to work with the retailer and welcome its intention to put more Scottish lamb on shelves in the year ahead.

“The announcement this week that Tesco is giving consideration to a lamb contract also takes things a step forward. This needs careful consideration given how aligned contracts have operated in other sectors but, if widely available, it could give Scottish sheep producers the opportunity to sell on contract to Tesco a proportion of their lamb crop, giving some protection against extreme volatility in the market.”

Building on its increased retailer engagement, NFU Scotland is currently running several events around the country with supermarket chain Aldi, encouraging shoppers to buy Scottish. The events see samples of Scottish beef, lamb, chicken, cheese, yoghurt and chutney being provided to the shoppers. Aldi has a growing presence in the Scottish retail scene and sells 100 percent Scotch beef and lamb.

Successful tasting events have already been held at Aldi stores in Dunfermline, Stirling and Livingston and a programme of nationwide events for the New Year is being put in place.

Livestock Committee Chairman Charlie Adam said: “These events provide a fantastic opportunity for us to speak to the public about the importance of backing Scottish farming. We have a great story to tell with some of the best food in the world. We need to get out there and sell it to the customers on our doorstep.

“The events are across all commodities and we will be showing the public the width and depth of produce coming from Scotland. From cheese to chops, Scottish farmers are working all year round to produce the best.”

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