18 January 2000
Co-operate to survive, growers told

By FWi staff

HORTICULTURALISTS must increase co-operation and do more to meet consumer demands if the sector is to survive, claims a union leader.

Michael Holmes, chairman of the NFU horticulture executive gave this warning as the industry annual HortEx exhibition opens today (18 January) at Telford, Shropshire.

The industry gathers to showcase produce and exchange ideas at a time when prices have slumped by 30% over the last year.

Mr Holmes blames much of this fall on the growing influence of supermarkets fighting for their share of an increasingly competitive market, pushing down prices for growers.

He told Radio 4s Farming Today programme that the wholesale market had collapsed.

While 10 years ago he said 70% of his produce went to wholesale, today that only accounted for 20% of his sales. Supermarkets now account for 80% of industry sales.

He said: “My choice is diminishing rapidly, its either the supermarket or the catering outlet or nothing.”

Mr Holmes said it was vital for farmers to form a partnership with supermarkets, co-operate more as growers and match produce with demand.

He cited the soft fruit industry of evidence of the results this strategy could bring.

Soft fruit growers – who have formed two strong co-operatives which can compete with supermarkets – were seen to be bucking the trend and finding success.

The HortEx exhibition runs over the next two days at the Telford International Centre