As expected, the subject of Tesco Chief Executive Peter Clarke’s speech at the NFU Conference earlier today was apropos the horsemeat saga. There was certainly a buzzword in his speech though and that was ‘partnership’. Mr Clarke made the case for a partnership between not just Tesco and farmers but between Tesco, farmers and consumers. Surely though this ‘partnership’ relationship should have already been apparent. Trading relationships should be both transparent and flexible, something that apparently isn’t already the case and needs correcting.
Clarke wants to ‘bring food closer to home’ by reducing the amount of links in the supply chain but is this really possible? He cleverly picked out poultry as a key example of improvement. The poultry sector has a) the ability to supply consistently and b) a cost effective means of Tesco improving their image as opposed to say the lamb sector where it is far more difficult to gain a consistent supply.
Having heard from various farmers over the past few weeks they seem rightly shocked and appalled that something such as horsemeat should have been getting into the food chain in the first place. However, we shouldn’t be too hard on Clarke. Tesco, and other supermarkets for that matter, have made a lot of effort to take a hard look at current supply chain working systems to see what has gone wrong and how it can be improved. Key measures to ensure consistency and transparency have already been put in place. The real test though will be marked by the consumer as they choose where to buy their meat from now on. Certainly local butchers seem to be increasing their trade, making the most of the current disenchantment with supermarket meat.
Philip Clarke’s full speech is available at http://www.retail-week.com/sectors/food/horse-meat-tesco-boss-philip-clarkes-full-speech-at-nfu-conference/5046777.article?blocktitle=Hot-topic:-Horse-meat-scandal&contentID=7926