Retailers committing to the NFU’s fruit and veg pledge have been delivering better relationships with growers, according to NFU chief adviser for horticulture and potatoes Hayley Campbell-Gibbons.
It came as Tesco became the first of the big four to sign up, which Ms Campbell-Gibbons said showed size did not matter when it came to finding better ways of working together.
She acknowledge the efforts from Aldi, the first retailer to sign up, who had committed to practices including giving contracts in advance. Lidl and Co-op have also signed up to the pledge.
While she would like more retailers signed up, Ms Campbell-Gibbons said the pledge was not a ‘free for all’ but acknowledged a commitment to better practice at a level above the legal requirements.
“To give the pledge credibility, we can take people off as well as we can take people on,” she added.
One key part of the pledge was communication both ways with growers needing to understand the challenges retailers faced as well.
It has also opened a line of communication from the union to the retailers if issues are flagged up by growers.
Selling British produce in season was also an aim with retailers wanting to stock British in season ‘for commercial reasons’ with lower prices and high demand from customers.
“Within season, we are now at 100 per cent British supply of soft fruit. That is an example of what can be achieved when the supply chain is working together.”
She said there was also some good practice going on at retailers not signed up but some had the view they did not need to sign up because they believed they were ‘gold standard’.
“I would question that. There is always room for improvement.”
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability policy at the British Retail Consortium said: “Retailers already source three quarters of their food from the UK and are always working with farmers and producers to source more.”
But he added imports played an important role offering products such as tropical fruit and supplementing production to provide ‘availability, quality and value all year round’.