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Forge better relationships between chefs and producers to help keep produce British

27 February 2013
Forge better relationships between chefs and producers to help keep produce British

With the National Farmers Union (NFU) conference opening today in Birmingham, Sarah Dawson, chair of the NFU Horticulture Board talks to Caterer and Hotelkeeper about the NFU Campaign: Make it British, Make it Local, Make it Happen!

However, the horticulture industry in the UK faces an uncertain future as growers try to juggle the impacts of increasingly diverse weather conditions, the increasing pressure from imports and the risks of unsustainable business practices that are passed down the supply chain by some buyers.

As a result, some well-loved British produce, including cucumbers, tomatoes, salad onions and mushrooms have been labelled as endangered, due to a fall in home production at a time when consumer demand is increasing. Growers aren't seeing the returns they need to give them the financial confidence to invest.

How have we ended up here? Well, in response to the growth of the major supermarkets over the past decade, UK growers and intermediaries have understandably intensified their focus on the retail market. However, this focus has perhaps been at the expense of developing links with other customers at home and abroad.

Chefs and caterers spend £10b on food in the UK and that represents a great opportunity for growers to tap into an expanding home market and - in doing so - spread some of the risk we experience by focusing so heavily on the supermarkets.

Furthermore, by developing relationships with chefs and the food service sector, I believe there is great potential to displace some of the produce we currently import by encouraging growers to plant more of the exotic, niche ingredients that chefs want to use.

We need to forge closer relationships with chefs and food service buyers, and by working with chefs' organisations we hope to improve that.

So make it Make it British, Make it Local, Make it Happen!

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