NFU branch secretary talks about growers, supermarkets and shoppers

Steve Barber.
Steve Barber.

I sense spring has sprung, with nearly two weeks of dry and warm weather for the time of year, writes Steve Barber, NFU Holland branch secretary.

The signs are obvious for all to see, with the general public no doubt subconsciously aware of the disappearance of sugar beet lorries on certain routes as the 2013/2014 campaign ends. They are perhaps unaware that sugar beet drilling for the next crop has already commenced.

Having been born and raised on a mixed farm, I enjoy that sense of renewal which is so obvious with young lambs appearing. I do question whether customers of farmers and growers appreciate the long-term nature of the business and I am particularly thinking of the major retailers. This is not intended to be a supermarket bashing – the agricultural and horticultural industry have long understood the need to work with the multiples. However, I suspect the impact of weather patterns carries little weight with a supermarket buyer who expects daffodils to be in plentiful supply for Mothering Sunday, irrespective of the earliness of the season and the lateness of Mothering Sunday.

The current round of milk price wars by the supermarkets does leave me to question the reasoning at board level, assuming a few pence reduction in the price of milk is discussed at such level. Does the shopper really decide which supermarket to visit or how much milk to buy because it is on offer and do they know it is the dairy farmer who is invariably subsidising this saving?