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Exceptional rainfall and a succession of damaging storms have impacted businesses across the country, the unions said

UK farming unions have written to retailer CEOs asking them to support the industry as it faces weather-induced challenges.

Exceptional rainfall and a succession of damaging storms had affected livestock, arable and horticultural sectors and disrupted individual farm businesses across the country, the unions said.

They added that no area of the UK had escaped, with lambing, calving, planting and field work all proving very difficult and bringing additional cost to businesses.

In a joint letter on behalf of the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and Ulster Farmers’ Union, the unions have sought major retailer commitment to support the industry.

“These challenges come at a time when many of our members are already struggling to remain viable due to the perfect storm of sustained and spiralling production costs, low market returns, and increasing levels of regulation,” the letter said. “This latest challenge, whilst not new, is more acute than ever, and is compounding the pressure on our members.”

The letter explained that farmers and growers were continuing to “bear the lion’s share of the risk” which was “unsustainable”. 

“We are in discussions with our respective governments on further support to assist the industry in navigating these short-term challenges, but we also recognise the important role which retailers have to play in helping the industry to withstand this latest crisis,” it added. 

This comes as the UK government unveiled a flood support fund for English farmers which has been widely criticised for being too narrowly focused on Storm Henk and flooding to specific counties, from specific rivers.

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The UK farming unions have asked the major retailers to implement a number of measures to support their members, including continuing promotional efforts in support of local suppliers.

Other asks include for retailers to continue their commitment to local sourcing and to send a signal of support to producers as it “would send a powerful message and give comfort at a time where our members’ wellbeing is already under severe strain”.

The unions have also called for fair supply chains by retailers responding promptly to any request from members for a review of contract terms, including price.

Flexibility on product specification and the rapid payment of suppliers were also highlighted as necessary at this time.

The unions said “it is no exaggeration that the current challenges are some of the most acute the industry has faced in a very long time”, which was why retailer support was needed “more than ever to maintain food production across the UK”.

“Our members will continue to work tirelessly in the face of this latest adversity to maintain their high standards of production and welfare that your customers have now come to expect,” said the letter. “We now urge you to support our members’ efforts.”