More consumers trust local supply chain following horse meat scandal - but leadership lacking to capitalise on opportunities
Friday, 26 July, 2013
The Ulster Farmers’ Union President Harry Sinclair is encouraged by the findings of a recent report from the Northern Ireland Consumer Council, which looked at consumer shopping habits in Northern Ireland in the wake of the horse meat scandal saying; “The report indicates that not only do consumers have more trust in local butchers, retailers, food producers and farmers than in the larger supermarket chains but that some are willing and able to pay more for local meat. This is a real opportunity for our industry and we need to capitalise on it.”
In March Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill stated her intention to convene an agri-food stakeholders meeting to further discuss opportunities for the agri-food industry following the horse meat scandal. A promise she still has yet to deliver on.
Harry Sinclair said; “At the height of the horse meat scandal in February it was left to the UFU to organise industry meetings to develop the opportunities which the Consumer Council’s report has confirmed are there. Subsequently, at the UFU Dinner in March the DARD Permanent Secretary announced that the Minister planned to convene an agri-food stakeholder meeting to discuss these opportunities further. Four months later, we are no further on and we had expected the Minister and her Department to show more leadership on this important issue. Changes in consumer attitudes and shopping habits are some of the positives to come out of the horse meat scandal. With more and more consumers putting their trust in the local supply chain rather than big supermarket chains, as an industry, we need to ensure we are able to cope with growing demand.”
The horse meat scandal exposed the complex and convoluted supply chain used by many of the large UK supermarkets chains and while some progress has been made in changing the current system, much more still needs to be done. Earlier this week, Tesco Chief Executive Philip Clarke admitted that a rise in food prices is “all but inevitable” and stated that “rising global demand means the historic low prices to which British consumers have become used are now unsustainable.”
Harry Sinclair continued; “Tesco made a number of promises in the wake of the horse meat scandal including shortening the supply chain and sourcing more meat locally, which they have delivered on to some extent. They have publically acknowledged that current food prices are unsustainable and that price rises are inevitable and what I want to see is farmers getting a fair share of the returns.”
Notes to Editors
1. The report ‘Food supply chain issues and the horse meat scandal – the consumer review’ (July 2013) is a follow on from their ‘Hard to Stomach’ report (January 2013) about the rising cost of food in Northern Ireland. A copy can be requested from the Consumer Council.
2. For the Agriculture Minister’s comments on conveneing an agri-food stakeholders meeting see Farming Life (23 March 2013) http://www.farminglife.com/news/food-industry-must-grab-opportunities-1-4932049
3. Link to Tesco Chief Executive Philip Clarke article http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/jul/21/tesco-boss-cheap-food-over