Weak pound "a spur to more UK veg production" - Riverford founder

The post-referendum weakening of the pound, on top of wage and other cost pressures, has been a "killer blow" forcing Riverford Organics to increase the price of its veg boxes for the first time in three years, its founder Guy Watson has said.

Image: Neal Whitehouse Piper (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Image: Neal Whitehouse Piper (CC BY-SA 2.0)

"The sums are no longer adding up," Guy Watson said on his blog, and explained: "As with the British farmers we work with, prices are agreed with our farmers in France, Spain and Italy a year or more ahead and we always honour them; treating farmers fairly is one of our founding principles.

"With the Pound remaining low against the Euro and winter approaching with its consequent increase in imported produce, the weekly cash drain has become too scary for us to wait in hope of a Sterling bounce-back."

From 14 November most Riverford box prices will go up by around 5 per cent, though its UK-only box will remain the same price. "The alternative to increasing prices would be to move to larger suppliers, push for lower prices from farmers and pay our staff less; we are not inclined to take any of these paths," Watson said.

He added: "Longer term, I hope this will spur us to increase our homegrown produce. While over the year our veg is 72 per cent British (mostly grown by us), I suspect we have become a little risk-averse with our farming as the quality and reliability of produce from like-minded organic farmers in Europe has improved, resulting in us dropping the riskier early and late-season crop sowings.

"We could also put up more polytunnels to shift a few of our acres climatically to the south of France."

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