Gleanings - AF Weekly news summary
10th January 2024

Here’s what caught our eyes and ears in the agri news from UK and further afield in the last week.


Who were the real winners at Christmas?

In June the Grocer carried a piece by Dan Crossley, Executive Director of the Food Ethics Council, decrying the stupidity of loss leaders, where supermarkets sell staple products at a loss to drive footfall. The problem, Crossley stated, is that the grower pays for the discount, not the retailer, who gladly exercise their power over the dependent and powerless farmer.

This sentiment is echoed from a different perspective by Ged Futter who authored a report launched at the Oxford Farming Conference this week, which firmly states that the practice of farmers subsidizing consumers’ appetite for cheap food cannot continue.

And social media was abuzz before Christmas with stories of farmers subsidising a variety of vegetables at 19p, 15p, even 14p a pack.

AF wanted to test the claims that it was farmers funding these discounts. We spoke to Members who grow and pack vegetables for supermarkets, and they were unanimous in confirming that farmers do not directly fund low, low prices. The supermarkets sign contracts for a fixed or ratcheted price (tied to the cost of key inputs), typically for 12 months. These contracts are tendered for by growers, who ultimately control their offer. The supplier delivers agreed volumes of vegetables on the dates required. It is then up to the supermarket to decide what price to sell the produce to consumers for.

This is backed up by Julie Ashfield, managing director of buying at Aldi UK, quoted in a recent article in the Guardian as saying: “Shoppers can rest assured that Aldi’s amazing vegetable deals don’t come at a cost to its suppliers. The supermarket carefully plans any promotions and works with British growers on a seasonal or annual fixed cost price. That means, regardless of promotional activity in store, growers receive the same fair price as usual.”

Driving footfall and building loyalty at Christmas is vital to supermarkets. Sainsbury’s did some research in the early 2010’s which measured loyalty of customers to their preferred supermarket. During the year this was between 2-3 months before they might change retailer preference, but when they had a positive Christmas grocery experience their loyalty would stretch to 5-6 months. So, in the super competitive world of grocery retail getting customers through the doors at Christmas pays long term dividends.


School of farming

The Guardian ran a photo gallery of pupils at Woodchurch High School near Birkenhead. The school, which is sandwiched between the M53 motorway and the suburb of Woodchurch has for the last 13 years had it’s own farm. The farm helps with pupils’ confidence, and they learn about nature and agriculture and even show their sheep and handling skills at the Cheshire and Westmorland shows. The school farm has encouraged a number of former pupils to follow careers as stockmen and women, dairy farmers and veterinarians. Follow the link above to see how well these urban pupils have taken to farm life!


Storm support

Farmers and landowners who have been impacted by flooding this winter can apply for up to £25,000 in Government cash for damage to their land. The support is provided by the Farming Recovery Fund for farms in England that have suffered flood damage not covered by insurance.

The Flood Recovery Framework will be providing financial support for damage to properties from flooding. There will be up to £500 available for individual households to cover immediate costs.

Additionally, property owners can apply for up to £5,000 to make improvements to reduce the risk of future flooding through the Property Flood Resilience Repair Grant Scheme.

Some households and businesses will also be in line for three months of council tax and business rates relief. There are also grants up to £2,500 to help businesses affected by flooding with recovery costs.


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