Highland provides platform for food chain engagement

A return to near-normality for the Royal Highland Show provided NFU Scotland with a platform to meet many supply chain players face to face writes NFU Scotland Vice President Andrew Connon.

He continues: “While some of our work is more obvious through the committees, there is also a lot of work that goes on to ensure fairness for our members throughout the supply chain. To drive this forward, the Highland Show provided a number of meetings for myself and members of our Supply Chain Working Group, with the key supermarkets, processors and retail bodies.

There are a number of commodity specific issues that are a focus at the moment; particularly in the pig and poultry industries and these were mainly addressed through separate meetings.

The main aim of the supply chain meetings was to ensure we were up to date with supermarket plans, particularly in relation to stocking policies, food security and climate change and to ensure that they were aware of our concerns and our continued intention to lobby in the post farm gate space.

Reflecting the interests of our members in the journey from farmgate to consumer plate is a strategic goal for NFUS – see: .

Prior to the show, we had produced a leaflet setting out some key ongoing areas of policy focus and we talked through some of these with the retailers:

  • Support local primary production: NFUS is working to ensure everyone has the same definition of “local food” and to help educate consumers on the regional and seasonal nature of our produce, the challenges in supply and the benefits of supporting primary production in Scotland. We are also working to ensure that supply chains in Scotland are agile, adaptable and aligned. Through this, we can fulfil and be part of the solution for food security in the UK which is becoming an increasing challenge. To achieve this, we need suppliers to commit to supporting and promoting local produce.
  • Supply Chain Infrastructure: This would include identification of markets (home and abroad), encouraging existing processors and new businesses to expand in Scotland and targeting inward investment from outside of Scotland. A supportive business environment in staff, processing, haulage, marketing, research & development, distribution, technology and freight is essential. In addition to the internal markets, the mechanisms for export should be considered. NFUS is encouraging an independent review of infrastructure of Scottish ports to better identify any factors contributing to export limitations.
  • Transparency of Contracts: Contracts are critical to determining the business relationship that exists between primary producers and the next step in the supply chain. We are keen to see freely negotiated and flexible contracts, increase transparency and trust, to the benefit of the whole supply chain. However, these contracts need to reflect the real cost of production and allow for regular review.
  • Food Standards and Security: Quality Assurance Schemes are a highly debated topic at the moment. We are keen to ensure that UK Quality Assurance Schemes deliver for the market but are workable for our membership. To this end we continue to work with QA providers and retailers to minimise the burden on producers and maximise the effectiveness of the schemes. 
  • Local Food and Public Procurement: The leveraging of public sector procurement to encourage the use of Scottish produce where viable and possible is important. The ultimate aim is to support the production of Scottish food, drive the economy and support the supply chain and Scottish farmers. We would propose supporting a hierarchy of procurement that puts Scottish, and British, produce first, but we need to be aware of the challenges in supply chain infrastructure in doing so.  

One important outcome from the discussions was around climate change and the introduction of further Greenhouse Gas recording requirements for a retailer’s whole value chain. As this is an area common to all retailers that does not impact competitive pricing, we re-emphasised that is important to try and deliver a single solution rather than each retailer seeking individual schemes.

Our initial conversations were positive, and we will continue to progress these and keep members up to date with progress.

Author: Andrew J Connon

Date Published:

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About The Author

Andrew J Connon

Andrew runs a small commercial sheep flock on their farm in Ellon, Aberdeenshire along with his wife Pauline, daughter and son. Andrew has been a member of NFU Scotland for 20 years with New Deer branch and is a former branch chair. He has been on the North East Regional Board for several years having been elected a Vice-Chair of the region in 2017 before taking on the North East Regional Chair role in January 2020.

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