Tesco CEO Ken Murphy

Tesco CEO Ken Murphy has today called on the government to stick by its promises on net zero, warning that lack of commitment will affect the food industry’s efforts to reduce its global footprint.

The Tesco boss also called for greater co-operation across industries and rival political parties, in a bid to tackle the impact of food production on climate change.

Murphy was speaking at the Reuters Impact event in London this morning, as he announced the largest commercial field trial to date of low carbon fertilisers in the UK, in a move to help farmers cut emissions and tackle rising production costs.

Tesco is to expand its trial of low-carbon, mostly domestically produced fertilisers. It will partner with its suppliers in a bid to drive a tenfold increase in the number of hectares being cultivated by low-carbon alternatives for the 2024 growing season.

Tesco has committed to share the findings so other businesses can also learn and benefit from the trial.

It comes with conventional fertiliser costs rising by as much as 140% last year and with the closure of the UK’s last remaining fertiliser plant, run by CF Fertilisers, in Billingham, leaving the UK heavily exposed to imports.

Murphy said low-carbon fertilisers were a cost-effective and less volatile alternative for farmers struggling with shortages caused by the war in Ukraine.

Now Tesco plans to increase the trial to cover 13,000 hectares by the end of next year. It said it would pave the way for widespread take-up of low-carbon alternatives.

Murphy said such such green innovation in the food industry was key to helping to cut costs and carbon, protect food security and stimulate green growth.

But he warned levels of investment in the UK remained well below the OECD average. He said government and industry must put aside their differences and work together to enable and unlock large-scale innovation.

“We’ll only get there through cross-industry and cross-party collaboration,” he said.

“We all need to drive towards the same goal, and be better at sharing learnings and resources on the way. The food industry is willing to invest, but needs more stability and confidence when it comes to future policy. That is why it’s critical that all parties, regardless of political creed, stand by their net zero commitments and timelines.”