Grower calls on Government to tackle food industry competition

Grower and Food Chain Centre (FCC) deputy chairman Mark Tinsley has made an impassioned plea to the Government to tackle competitiveness in the food industry and ensure FCC's work continues.

Tinsley used the unveiling of the FCC's Completion Report, attended by DEFRA minister Lord Rooker and high-profile industry representatives, to launch an attack on the "variables at the primary production end", and called for the FCC's work not be "wasted".

He said: "DEFRA has contributed generously to FCC projects. As it is crucial that the FCC's work is picked up and progressed by English Food & Farming Partnerships (EFFP) and the levy bodies, DEFRA can simply make it clear that this is the outcome it desires."

Tinsley, a Lincolnshire vegetable grower, went on to highlight problems damaging competitiveness and said the "fear must be taken out of the food chain". He said he was "intrigued, as a farmer, by the Government's approach to the UK food industry, particularly at the primary production end" and highlighted how the UK's self-sufficiency in fruit and vegetable production was reducing.

He added: "What the Government has to sort out in strategic terms, particularly with its new-found focus on food security, is whether the industry structure we have in the UK, the variables at the primary production end and the social and environmental requirements placed on the industry, allow a totally laissez-faire approach to competiveness."

He highlighted a "category leading supplier" to one of the retailers, saying the packer in question gave no contracts to growers for some years and made growers operate below cost of production.

He added that he believed there were attempts by retailers to improve things.

Tinsley said: "To bring packers, processors and primary producers up to world class we must take the fear out of the food chain, applaud the use of the business improvement tools that we have piloted so successfully, encourage collaboration, encourage innovation through commercially focused research and development and take off unnecessary regulatory shackles."

- For more news on the FCC Completion Report, see p33.

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