UK farming unions are urging major retailers to commit to support British farming during this difficult time of “extremely challenging and disruptive weather”.

A joint letter on behalf of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) is seeking major retailer commitment to support the industry during this time. 

The unions said exceptional rainfall and a succession of damaging storms have impacted livestock, arable and horticultural sectors and disrupted individual farm businesses across the country. 

No area of the UK has escaped with lambing, calving, planting and field work all proving very difficult and bringing additional cost to the business, they said.

The letter from the unions to major retailers states:

“These challenges come at a time when many of our members are already struggling to remain viable due to the perfect storm of sustained and spiralling production costs, low market returns, and increasing levels of regulation.

“This latest challenge, whilst not new, is more acute than ever, and is compounding the pressure on our members.

“Farmers and growers continue to bear the lion’s share of the risk within their supply chains, and this is unsustainable. 

“We are in discussions with our respective governments on further support to assist the industry in navigating these short-term challenges, but we also recognise the important role which retailers have to play in helping the industry to withstand this latest crisis.”

Backing British

The UK farming unions are asking major retailers to implement measures in support of their members through this bad weather.

These measures include honouring existing sourcing commitments that have been made with local suppliers.

The unions said sending a “clear signal of support” to these producers would send a powerful message and give comfort at a time where wellbeing is already under “severe strain”.

Other measures the unions are calling for include:

  • Fair supply chains: The unions are asking retailers to respond promptly to any request from their members for a review of the terms of their contracts, including price;
  • Flexibility on product specification: The unions are urging retailers to show understanding and flexibility in these circumstances, stating that farmers may not be able to fully conform to the exact specification previously agreed;
  • Rapid payment of suppliers: The unions said ensuring rapid payment to suppliers cross the supply chain will be a significant help to their members to keep their businesses functioning;
  • Promotion of local suppliers: The unions are asking retailers to continue their “promotional efforts” in support of local suppliers.

The letter concludes: “It is no exaggeration to say that the current challenges are some of the most acute the industry has faced in a very long time, and we need your support more than ever to maintain food production across the UK and safeguard our food security.

“Our members will continue to work tirelessly in the face of this latest adversity to maintain their high standards of production and welfare that your customers have now come to expect.

“We now urge you to support our members’ efforts.”