Steve Murrells, commercial director, fresh produce at Tesco, said that retailers’ prime responsibility was to their shareholders and customers.
But he insisted it was in nobody’s interest to allow the UK’s red meat farmers to go under, and retailers had a responsibility to help ensure UK production was viable.
Murrells, who was speaking at the Red Meat Industry Forum conference,
added: “Farmers are worse off. We have to understand that truth.”
His comments were endorsed by Karen Schenstrom, director of fresh foods at Sainsbury. She also said that it was
crucial for the whole supply chain to become better connected to ensure consumers could buy the products they wanted.
Farmers hope the tone of these comments herald the beginning of a fresh approach by retailers to how they deal with primary producers.
The remarks were welcomed by Kevin Roberts, the director general of the Meat and Livestock Commission. “This could be a turning point for the industry with all links in the supply chain accepting their responsibilities to make it work,” he said.
“We applaud the move and through the work of the RMIF we can help make this a reality.”
Martin Lowcock, a beef producer from near Stokesley in North Yorkshire, who also spoke at the RMIF event, said: “As an everyday farmer, I was delighted to hear the positive messages that were delivered by the retailers at the conference. They have come at a critical time for the industry.
“If we can now harness the commitment shown by the retailers to work more closely with us, I believe we could deliver some huge benefits for farmers, processors, retailers and consumers.”