Fairer supply chains and business growth through marketing and cooperation

The Scottish Government has announced that the Food Processing, Marketing, and Co-operation (FPMC) grant scheme is now open for applications, with a closing date of the 12th September. The grant scheme is warmly welcomed by NFU Scotland. It gives our members an opportunity to fund projects that could improve their financial margins in existing and new markets, and provide opportunities for enterprise and business development. This could lead to fairer supply chains and growth of Scotland’s rural economy. But the short deadline is not ideal for members who are busy combining.

There is certainly a need for these projects. This year has seen the winding-down of AHDB Potatoes and Horticulture, the loss of the EU seed potato market, and the administration of Alexander Inglis and Son, a grain trader based in East Lothian. I have had a lot of conversations with a lot of people about these issues, and market development and farmer co-operation has come up several times as a possible way forward. From the looks of things, the FPMC could support activities that address all these issues.

The administration of Alexander Inglis and Son has highlighted the importance of transparency and trust in the grain supply chain. It has also raised concerns about the consequences of fewer larger grain traders in the marketplace. The creation of a grain marketing co-operative by, and for, ex-Inglis customers has been suggested by some members as one way of addressing these concerns, and NFU Scotland hosted an SAOS webinar that looked at this.

NFU Scotland and the Scottish Society of Crop Research (SSCR) recently ran a workshop on the next steps for AHDB Potatoes. The idea of setting up a co-operative model was also suggested as one alternative to a mandatory levy body. It was put forward as one possible way to raise funds for the research, innovation, knowledge transfer, and marketing activities needed by the potato sector. Other suggestions were the development of existing associations and organisations who could take on some of these roles, and a smaller mandatory levy. The full report is here.

The loss of the EU seed potato market after Brexit has been a blow to the Scottish seed potato sector. While lobbying organisations like NFU Scotland continue to make the case for reciprocal trade with the EU, there is a need for the sector to develop new markets.

Accessing markets, getting a fair price, innovating and sharing information are important across all farming sectors, not just cereals and potatoes, and the FPMC grant scheme is an opportunity for farmers to get funding to do this.

Author: David Michie

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About The Author

David Michie

David has been involved in the agricultural sector for the last two decades where he has worked on his family farm, at an agricultural science agency, as an agricultural and rural business consultant, and for an environmental food and farming charity. He joined NFUS in 2021 as their crops policy manager, where his role includes working with the arable, oilseed, potato, soft fruit, horticulture, and ornamental sectors.

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