Food Chain Centre reports savings of more than £14m

The Food Chain Centre (FCC) pilot project has unveiled its completion report after five years - revealing that it has saved farmers and growers involved a minimum of £14m.

But FCC chairman Joanne Denney-Finch said the potential learnings for the industry as whole were far more valuable and could lead to massive financial savings.

The project, mostly funded by DEFRA, comes to a close at the end of the year. It was the biggest-ever evaluation of business improvement techniques for food and farming, involving almost 2,000 farm businesses and more than 120 food companies.

Denney-Finch said: "Companies involved in 25 of our projects reported savings totalling a minimum of £14.4m, much of which is repeatable in future years. However, the real value is in demonstrating the potential returns for farm businesses of the work we have undertaken in applying marketing, lean thinking and benchmarking."

Headline results included an increase in farmers benchmarking between 2002 and 2006 from eight per cent to 33 per cent. Of these, 52 per cent said they improved their practices and 34 per cent enjoyed better returns.

Denney-Finch also said the FCC had helped the NHS Purchasing & Supply Agency save £3m in the running of its school fruit scheme.

She called on growers and farmers to make use of the Dunnhumby Academy at Kent Business School research, which has compiled the shopping habits of a million shoppers. FCC farm businesses that used the data had an average sales uplift of more than 10 per cent.

She said the findings were even more relevant as farming faces more challenges, and called on UK growers to use the data.

She warned: "(Other countries) have been watching us closely and others are not far behind so we must capitalise on our advantage and maintain momentum."

The FCC was born out of the Policy Commission on Farming and Food chaired by Sir Don Curry in 2002. DEFRA minister Lord Rooker said it fulfilled exactly what it was meant to do and impressively.

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