NFU Scotland has welcomed the commitment by Tesco to review the labels on its beef products, following concerns raised by NFUS in a meeting with the supermarket. At a frank and productive meeting in Oxford last week, NFUS and Tesco also agreed that greater communication between the retailer and farmers was essential.
With farmgate prices having tumbled in recent weeks, NFUS met Tesco, the UK's largest supermarket and agriculture's single biggest customer, to clarify its beef buying policies. Farmers have been outside supermarket stores in Scotland in recent weeks urging shoppers to choose Scotch, following fears that foreign imports could undermine the industry.
Tesco has offered to meet Scottish farmers later this year to outline its views on the future of the trade in Scotland. The supermarket has also agreed to share any future beef import plans and explain the background to them. It is also willing to discuss with farmers the possibility of contract pricing, to give farmers greater certainty of the price they will get from the market.
Speaking after the meeting with Tesco representatives, NFUS Chief Executive Andy Robertson said:
"We had an extremely productive meeting with Tesco. Its representatives clearly recognise the concern amongst producers at recent price drops and they reiterated their strong support for Scotch beef.
"Of particular concern to NFUS has been unclear labelling, which might confuse customers into mistaking foreign beef for Scotch. Tesco has recognised this concern and will be reviewing its beef labelling policy to ensure the country of origin is clearly stated on all its fresh and processed beef products.
"The need for better communication between the retailer and Scottish farmers was recognised by both parties and Tesco has agreed to host meetings in Scotland to allow farmers to ask questions of their main buyers. Crucially, the meetings will give Tesco the opportunity to outline its forecast for the trade. It is these signals from the top of the supply chain that farmers need to make decisions on their business.
"Contract pricing is attractive to our members because it has the potential to provide far greater certainty on the end price. On top of that, I am pleased Tesco has offered to provide details of, and explanations for, its future import plans.
"The kind of frank, open discussion we have had with Tesco is essential to building a more trusting and transparent food chain and to improve the information flow between farmgate and supermarket shelf."