Retailers, farmers talk about the weather

Related tags Food chain Weather

Better communication between retailers and their suppliers about
the long-term weather forecast will help ensure that supermarket
shelves are well stocked with the appropriate products - and help
farmers prepare for extreme weather conditions such as the recent
heat wave, claims the UK's NFU.

The hot weather which has affected most of western Europe during the last month has been a double-edged sword for the food industry. While many farmers have suffered as their crops shrivelled and died in the heat, retailers have benefited from consumers stocking up on ice cream, soft drinks and salads.

UK retailers were well prepared for the heat wave, as many have benefited for some time from access to long-range weather forecasts. Now farmers are calling for access to the same information to help them cope better with the increasingly unpredictable UK weather.

Sir Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union (NFU) met with top executives from one UK retail group, Asda, last week to discuss this very topic. Top of the agenda was the need for the food chain as a whole to share higher quality long-range weather forecasting to enable all parts of it to plan ahead for bouts of extreme weather conditions.

This, the NFU argues, would enable farmers and processors to modify production processes to take into account changes in demand and growing conditions due to the weather.

"Extreme weather has an impact on the whole food chain from the production cycle through to changes in consumer demand at the point of sale. For example, the recent heat wave has affected the growing cycle of lettuces while consumer demand for salad produce has gone up,"​ Gill said.

"If the food chain worked more closely together in planning production including sharing long-range weather forecasts, contingency planning and market information, we could all ensure we minimise the potential disruption to supply."

Tony De Nunzio, chief executive of Asda, agreed that all the links in the chain need to work more closely together. "We recognise the need to address these longer term issues and hope that by working together in the areas of weather and climate change the industry will be better prepared in the future."

The meeting also discussed how farmers were becoming more market-focused due to structural changes in the industry and because of the direction of the recent CAP reforms as well as the more immediate issues of GM crops and the removal of the Over Thirty Month Scheme for cattle.

"There is no doubt that we are moving in a more market-focused direction but there is more work to do in creating strong partnerships between farmers and the rest of the food chain to ensure that consumers' needs are fulfilled as efficiently as possible,"​ Gill said.

Related topics Market trends

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