Growers are being urged to seize the initiative and not sit back and wait for government action on the supermarkets’ code of practice.
Speaking at the NFU’s Horticulture in Focus conference, Sir Don Curry said: “The whole code is tarnished and its reputation is shot.”
NFU president Tim Bennett told growers they needed to seize the impetus to ensure their interests were represented: “We need to take ownership of this issue and not simply sit around and wait for the OFT or Competition Commission.”
There was a need for much greater communication and cooperation between growers, delegates were told.
Sir Don said the whole
process needed to start again, but added the existing code should not be disregarded as it could act as a foundation for a new more effective code.
However, Steve Murrells, Tesco’s category director for fresh, rejected the claims the code was not working. “The fact there have been no complaints doesn’t mean the code isn’t working, it means relationships are good. If problems arise, they are dealt with quickly.”
Meanwhile, the NFU used the conference to launch its ‘Manifesto for Horticulture’. The document sets out the priorities of the NFU’s board for horticulture, with one of the key issues being closer communications with its members. Other issues cover pesticide use, employment, waste and energy.
The board will have a strong, strategic, market-orientated focus to try and grow the market for horticultural products.
Phil Hudson, NFU chief horticultural advisor, said: “The NFU will be taking the initiative and driving the sector forward by providing a forum for all growers. Our intention is to represent our members at a British and European level to ensure fair treatment and enable the industry to drive forward in all its markets.”
Ed Bedington