2013-07-24   facebook twitter rss

East Midlands Potato Day

More than 200 potato growers, advisors and agronomists met at QV Foods, Holbeach Hurn, near Spalding, at the start of July, 2013, for Potato Council’s (PCL’s) East Midlands Potato Day.

“Last year was such a difficult season – with some quality issues, high prices and low quantity. But we have got through it, nearly, by working together,” stated event host and QV Foods chairman Duncan Worth, as he opened the event.

East Midlands Potato Day

East Midlands Potato Day

“This year’s crops are looking good, despite difficult planting and soil conditions; this should be a better year. But the up’s and down’s don’t help, as we all need a sustainable industry.”

Highlighting PCL’s recently launched ‘Direction through Dialogue’ campaign Duncan urged growers to talk to PCL and help direct the strategy. “Please ask questions of the PCL board members today or after the event and provide your views on what PCL should or shouldn’t be doing. PCL’s future plans and strategy needs to take account of all industry views.”

The Governments’ newly appointed independent Groceries Code Adjudicator, Christine Tacon, just two weeks into her role, kicked off the morning presentation sessions. Christine is tasked with enforcing the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, which regulates interactions between our ten largest supermarkets and their direct suppliers.

“The Code of Practice, and my role, were introduced as the Competition Commission found that excessive risk is being passed by the retailer to the supply chain,” explained Christine. “This is a challenge in the UK and also globally. The Code doesn’t apply to price, but prohibits predominant funding of promotions, late payments, requirements to use third parties where the supermarket is rewarded for exclusivity and it allows for compensation for forecasting errors amongst other areas. These are all laid out in the Groceries Supply Code of Practice and my role is to ensure it is not breached.”

As well as food, Christine’s remit covers groceries including drink and toiletries, such as shampoo, from any direct supplier, including those from overseas.

“I can investigate complaints from growers and farmers, and trade associations, but if they are not direct suppliers, I will seek first-hand evidence to corroborate a breach,” added Christine. ”I’m looking for endemic breaches across industry. I have not received many complaints so far, and know that I need to build trust so people will talk to me. I am legally required to protect complainant’s anonymity if requested.

“This way we can sort out the future and communicate to prevent future breaches. My goal is for fairness and to engender more trust in the supply chains which I am sure will lead to them becoming more efficient.'

Following on, Ed Garner, communications director at Kantar Worldpanel, discussed the latest grocery retail trends, outlining that the mobile internet and shopping from mobile devices was a growth area to watch.

“Global food prices are high and have been rising steadily. But combined with domestic pressure on household bills and utilities during the recession, consumers are being squeezed,” explained Ed.

“On the back of this many more people are buying budget products, but growth is returning to the high-end own-label products. In terms of retailers Aldi is showing the fastest growth at 30% a year, followed by Waitrose at 10%.

“Home delivery has grown strongly and is now over 10% of the grocery market amongst higher income households. Buying potatoes on the internet up by 37%, which is good news and set to continue. “

Potato Council’s Adrian Cunnington, head of Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research, reviewed the 2012 storage season, discussed Chlorpropham (CIPC) stewardship and provided analysis of exceedances during the afternoon sessions.

“The CIPC issue will not go away and we need to work together to keep this important product for the industry,” stressed Adrian. “We are going into a new season not knowing the position on CIPC yet and we are only as strong as our weakest link – any single exceedance will be a major problem for the GB industry.

“It’s crucial the whole industry improves its storage practice. Early application gives best results and it is vital not to wait for sprouts to appear.

“Positive ventilation is the ‘Holy Grail’. Bulk stores need to be using inverters (fans). Sorting out the airflow distribution is the priority, not simply applying more CIPC. This will help ensure we keep GB potato supply 365 days a year.”

Further field sessions were taken by John Keer of Richard Austin Agriculture who demonstrated Potato Council funded herbicide trials; Barrie Florendine, chair of the new Nematode Management Initiative (NMI), who discussed Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN) stewardship and Brian Chambers of ADAS, who looked at soil nutrition, along with first-hand examination of some post-AD digestate, potentially odorous but great for soil improvement!

Potato Council

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