A year ago, in the aftermath of the horsemeat scandal, Tesco’s chief executive Philip Clarke made some big, unflinching promises to British farmers and consumers.
In front of a crowd of more than 1,000 farmers at the 2013 NFU Conference, Mr Clarke committed to shorten the retailer’s supply chains, source meat closer to home and improve its relationships with farmers. It would amount, he said, to “the most radical change between a retailer and a producer” that had “ever been attempted”.
Yet a major investigation by Farmers Weekly reveals that the scale and speed of change within Tesco has been disappointingly slow. After talking extensively to senior farming sources, the retailer’s suppliers and Tesco itself, it is clear that some important progress has been made.
However, a stronger and more unified effort will be needed if Mr Clarke’s promises are to be realised and if British farmers are to feel the benefits.
1. To “source more meat closer to home” and “where reasonable” to source from British suppliers.
2. Shorten supply chains and work directly with farmers and growers.
3. Offer two-year contracts to “all suppliers who want them”.
4. From July 2013, to source all fresh chicken from UK farms.
5. Source all chicken in all products – fresh and frozen – from the British Isles.
6. Work towards transparent relationships with suppliers and customers.
7. Undertake a root-and-branch review of the whole Tesco supply chain.
8. Appoint a Tesco agricultural director to lead the development of the sustainable farming groups and provide a single point of contact for farming.
9. Set up a new independent panel of experts to improve supply chain practices and hold Tesco to account.
10. A promise on labelling/traceability that only what’s on the pack is what’s in the product.
11. Undertake DNA testing on all processed beef.
12. Extend the Tesco producer network (a social network of producers) to more suppliers, to share knowledge and communicate better, starting with dairy farmers.
13. Introduce a Tesco standard so shoppers know the product has been vigorously tested.
14. Set up an interactive website to give customers insight into what’s in their food and to show Tesco testing works.
15. Put video in the supply chain so customers can trace from farm to fork.
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