NFU president Peter Kendall has announced plans to compile and publish a “responsibility index” ranking each of the big retailers on the standard of their food labelling and the standards required of imported goods.

Taking a similar approach used to measure corporate responsibility, the index will also rank the retailers on their involvement in dedicated supply chains, relationships with suppliers and the amount of seasonal British produce sold.

In his first speech to the Oxford Farming Conference Mr Kendall urged the retailers to “demonstrate to everyone, consumers and suppliers, that you are taking your responsibility seriously”. 

The need for this, he said, was that retailers had to provide the necessary signals to the farming industry before it can expect to build relationships with producers. 

“We need long term relationships and not the yearly beating up over prices,” said Mr Kendall.

Following Mr Kendall was Justin King, chief executive of the UK’s third largest retailer, J Sainsbury.  Mr King endorsed Mr Kendall’s calls for greater country of origin labelling, but warned that, in terms of customer priorities, “it was well down the list”.

In response to a question from Stuart Houston, chairman of the National Pig Association, Mr King confirmed that Sainsbury’s intends to remove its tertiary brands that use imported pork.  “Our customers tell us they don’t want cheap pork if it’s produced below British standards so we are going to remove them.”

Have your say on FWi’s forum

Oxford had one of the highest-calibre speaker line-ups in several years. What did you think of their messages? Have a look at our Oxford Farming Conference forum