Record turnout at Fresca conference

More UK growers than ever before attended this year's Fresca Group conference - joining Fresca suppliers and customers from as far afield as South America, Egypt, the Netherlands, Spain and Guernsey to listen to presentations on corporate responsibility.

Conference: Fresca's Stephen Robertson (left) with Mack's James Hallett. Credit: Fresca Group
Conference: Fresca's Stephen Robertson (left) with Mack's James Hallett. Credit: Fresca Group

The event, held on 20 February at The Belfry hotel, near Birmingham, was attended by some 130 suppliers from across the globe - a record attendance for the group.

A Fresca representative said: "Originally a Mack Multiples initiative, the conference has grown in popularity resulting in this year's expansion across the other Fresca interests - including Manor Fresh and Jack Buck Growers. As a result, an even greater mix of suppliers were able to take advantage of the opportunity to share knowledge and best practice in the field.

"We would like to thank all those who attended the conference - either as a speaker or a supplier. We look forward to building on this year's success at future events."

Director general of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and non-executive director of Fresca Group Stephen Robertson gave the keynote speech, in which he outlined BRC's priorities for this year.

These include lobbying work on food labelling, the Five a Day initiative and hygiene instructions in washed and ready-to-eat products. The BRC is also leading the drive to find common standards for measuring the carbon footprint of retail products, along with the Carbon Trust and the British Standards Institute.

Other speakers at the event included commercial director of Mack Salads & Vegetables James Hallett, who highlighted the benefits of good customer-supplier relationships, and Greg Hilton of East Anglia-based rural land management company Bidwells.

Hilton introduced the audience to fresh ways of assessing and revising the supply chain to make more carbon-efficient models - largely through assessing the problem areas with a more joined-up approach.

Colin Hall of the 50 Club (horticultural employers' association) gave a comprehensive presentation about labour issues encountered in the industry - with particular focus on the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 and how it can impact on labour users. He also drew attention to forthcoming developments and identified key areas to ensure compliance.

Linking Environment & Farming (LEAF) chief executive Caroline Drummond told growers about the benefits of the LEAF Marque farm assurance scheme, while Alistair Leake of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust gave a technical presentation on integrated crop management and best practice for biodiversity.

Marks & Spencer fresh produce buyer Phil Symons and Sainsbury's category manager Connor McVeigh also gave presentations.

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