Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Annex 2

  Business in the Community and the IGD have published a best practice guide on local suppliers, endorsed and sponsored by the Prince of Wales, in which Tesco features:


  The arrival of the first potatoes of the new season is a landmark in the world of fresh produce each year. Usually sourced from places with more favourable climates than we experience in the UK, this year the first new potatoes on sale in Tesco Stores in south-west England came from Cornwall.

  Sourcing produce from farms within the same area as each of their stores has been one of Tesco's priorities for several years in response to the preference of their customers to support local producers and also to reduce the distances which produce travels between farm and shopping basket.

  In the West Country Tesco's "Locally Grown" marketing initiative has been applied particularly successfully to fresh potatoes through close co-operation between the supermarket itself, its biggest supplier of fresh potatoes, Branston Potatoes, and Cornish potato grower Mark Rowe.

  Branston has packhouses which supply Tesco in Lincolnshire, Somerset and Tayside, all of them providing comprehensive integrated packing, storage, agronomy and marketing services. Each packhouse supports a number of Producers Groups which benefit from specialist support and advice on all aspects of growing and marketing their crop.

  Five years ago Mark Rowe of Lower Nansole Farm, Helston, joined the South-West Producer Group, having made the strategic decision to grow high-quality potatoes and sell through Branston to Tesco. He previously sold his crop mainly to wholesalers. Over the last five years he has supplied increasing volumes to Tesco year on year and now grows 500 acres, most of which goes to the supermarkets Chepstow distribution centre, serving stores in South-West England and South Wales.

  In the past the majority of the first early potatoes have been sourced by Tesco from Jersey, Cyprus, Portugal or Majorca. This year, mainly as a result of the expansion of the potato area of Lower Nansole Farm, Tesco stores in the South-West chose to stock first early potatoes from Cornwall as soon as they became available. The occasion was marked with in-store promotions, including a blind "taste challenge" at which the home-grown produce was clearly preferred to the competitors—to the delight of everyone involved in the South-West.

  Mr Rowe was involved in these promotions and welcomed the opportunity to get close to consumers in this way.

  The farm's ability to supply the required quality in this volume is the result of a close relationship between grower, packer and supermarket. Confident in Mr Rowe's commitment and ability, Tesco and Branston have committed themselves to take increasing tonnages from Lower Nansole Farm. In turn, Mr Rowe has adapted growing techniques—in particular, to comply with Tesco's "Natures Choice" growing protocol—and made substantial investments in field machinery, storage facilities, packing equipment and other aspects of his business.

  A recent development has seen the start of on-farm packing, which has the advantage of reducing "food miles" and offering the potential of fresher potatoes in the local stores. This new development is particularly welcomed by Mr Rowe as it enables him to provide work for local people in an area of above average unemployment.

  As the biggest supplier of fresh potatoes to Tesco, Branston has been able to keep growers such as Mr Rowe in touch with the supermarket's plans to support British agriculture and drive forward its commitment to source local produce for local consumers where possible. Through Branston's agronomy service growers are also kept abreast of the latest developments in areas such as irrigation, pest control and storage techniques. According to Mr Rowe, this knowledge and experience have been essential in enabling him to meet Tesco's requirements. Copies available from Business in the Community ISBN 189804497X.

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