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The £40million British tomato gamble
12:00am Friday 26th October 2012 in News
The £40million British tomato gamble British tomato growers are gambling with an investment of £40million a year in producing crops before they receive any return, according to the NFU and the Tomato Growers Association (TGA).
The news comes as the TGA announces its support for the NFU’s Catalyst for Change report, which labels the great British tomato as a potentially endangered crop, alongside other British staples like cucumbers and spring onions, due to the fall in home-grown production over the last ten years.
The dramatic position is being blamed on poor supply chain practices and short-term relationships between growers, intermediaries and retailers, which are damaging growers’ confidence and ability to make the long-term investments needed for sustainable tomato production.
NFU chief horticulture and potatoes adviser Hayley Campbell-Gibbons said: “With only one in every five tomatoes eaten in Britain today actually produced here, and less than 40 British tomato growers left, we’re fast reaching the point of losing our critical mass. For consumers this will ultimately lead to more imported produce, less product choice and, arguably, a huge compromise on taste, quality and freshness.
“Growers want to do business with retailers and there is huge potential to increase the production of British tomatoes, displace imports and meet the growing consumer demand for high quality, traceable British food. But, in order to reverse the trend, the supply chain desperately needs to work together to ensure a fairer share of risk and reward.”
Tomato Growers’ Association chairman Nigel Bartle said: “British growers are making a staggering financial commitment to producing tomatoes every year. The average cost of tomato production stands at over £80,000 a hectare. With roughly 200 hectares of glass across the country, growers are investing over forty million pounds a year in growing tomatoes before they get any return from their customer. Even then, there are no guarantees, so it’s a £40million gamble that the industry commits to annually.
“On top of the production costs, there’s also the substantial investment growers make in glasshouses. Investment in glass currently stands at £1million a hectare. So, the cost of doubling our industry from a size of 200 hectares and an 18 per cent market share, to 400 hectares and over 35 per cent market share would be £200million. Growers have to ask to ask themselves whether that’s a gamble worth taking.
“We want to work with everyone in the supply chain to create a culture that allows substantial long term investments to be made. Most importantly, with the right signals from retailers, we'll be able to grow more of the great British tomatoes that consumers want to eat”.
The TGA has become the first organisation to publically endorse the NFU’s Fruit and Veg Pledge. The NFU is calling on retailers, packers and processors to sign up to the Pledge and show their commitment to best business practice.