It has been announced that Tesco Chief Executive Philip Clarke will be addressing the NFU annual conference in Birmingham on Wednesday (27 February), where he will speak on the subject ‘farming delivers for the economy’. Surely the question on farmers’ minds will be however ‘can the retail sector deliver for farming’?
This will be the first time that Mr Clarke has addressed a farming body since the horsemeat scandal so it’ll be most interesting to see what it is that he has to say – if he mentions the business at all!
Farmers Weekly notes that Tesco was among the first supermarket chains to be hit by the horsemeat scandal when DNA tests revealed up to 29% of its economy beefburgers was in fact horsemeat. (read more at http://www.fwi.co.uk/articles/25/02/2013/137813/tesco-chief-to-address-farm-conference.htm).
Mr Clarke certainly could spend his allocated time skirting around the issues that implicate negativity on the side of the retailers he will be seen to be representing. However, even if he does not address the issues that will be in farmers’ heads during his speech, one can rest assured that he will be forced to confront them come questioning time. The supply chain will be right up there as well as pricing strategy and future market opportunities.
Certainly Tesco have already made some positive steps to improving supply chain relationships. Last autumn the supermarket giant announced changes that would entail it sourcing its beef and pork from dedicated and specialised farmer lines. Following the change, any farmer who signed onto a contract with Tesco would receive a pricing commitment linked to cost of production. Beef suppliers would also receive a premium for their product. Farmers will be hoping that this relationship can be echoed by other market operators.
The challenges the industry faces are huge and diverse but it will take members at all stages of the supply chain to work together to find solutions, regain the trust and respectability of the consumer post horsemeat scandal and think about the way forward for the future.
The full programme for the conference is available at http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/events/1302-nfu-conference.aspx