Unilever senior vice-president Iain Ferguson has defended the sourcing policies of supermarkets and manufacturers against criticism that they do not support British farmers and growers.
Speaking at the National Consumer Council conference in London, Ferguson said the fragmentation of the domestic supplier base in some product areas did not help relationships with supermarket buyers, whose watchwords are price, availability and consistency.
NFU marketing director Robin Tapper said the new English Collaborative Board proposed by the Curry report would play a key role in addressing these concerns so that farmers were more attuned to customers' needs.
The ECB should be up and running in a couple of months, with the primary task of identifying opportunities for farmers and growers to collaborate, share best practice, and sell and market their produce, said Tapper's predecessor Helen Lo, a speaker at the conference. "The sooner farmers can understand how to make it easier for people to buy their food, the better."
A presentation by Professor Tim Lang from Thames Valley University revealed a sharp fall in the share of the market supplied by home produced fruit and veg.
NCC chairman Deidre Hutton said this "increasing trade gap" was doubly frustrating given the domestic climate is ideal for growing most fruit and veg.

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