The NFU has written to processors and packers calling for clarity and transparency in the supply chain after potato growers reported severe payment deductions being made with little or no explanation.
With some growers experiencing penalties of up to 30%, the NFU is calling for full, itemised breakdowns of deductions to be made available within 48 hours. NFU potato forum chairman Alex Godfrey said the current situation could cause long-term harm to the sector. He said growers needed more information and to better understand the issues that were resulting in deductions so they can make changes and minimise penalty costs.
“We exposed this issue in the NFU’s Catalyst for Change report and it is absolutely critical that growers get full, clear, itemised breakdowns of deductions so they can understand where issues are occurring on farm,” said Mr Godfrey. “It is not good enough to expect growers to simply accept levels of deductions like this without reasonable explanation.
“Farmers are telling us that this situation is getting worse, not better. They are becoming more and more frustrated at the scale of the problem, with some processors and packers offering little or no supporting data to explain the reduction in payment. Growers then often wait weeks before being told of the deductions. This can’t continue. Growers must be given clarity and transparency if they are expected to improve efficiencies and production on farm.”
Potatoes that do not meet the specification can be used for a secondary purpose, without just reward to the grower. Growers have expressed concern over this practice with potatoes ending up in added value processed or prepared food, which they are not paid for.
Mr Godfrey said: “Packing businesses have diversified to enable them to use more of the crop and produce products such as chilled mash or wedges. There needs to be recognition of the value of the crop used for this purpose and a reasonable reward for the growers.”
The NFU is calling on growers to make it a regular part of the season to visit the packing site and follow the process in order to deliver greater transparency and trust between supplier and customer.