1 October 1999

Co-ops urge ware growers to meet with seed supplier

By Andrew Swallow

SCOTTISH seed marketing methods have attracted criticism in the past. Now seed growers are taking marketing into their own hands to build win-win relationships with ware growers and merchants.

"In the past, merchants always tried to keep seed producers and ware producers as far apart as possible," says seed grower and chairman of Saltire Seeds Hamish Rhind.

Now the grower co-operative actively encourages ware growers to visit their seed suppliers. If that is not possible, Saltire members try to travel south.

"When I first went down to meet the ware growers they were surprised to see me and asked why was I there," he says.

Quality is top priority, with all seed stores having positive ventilation and refrigeration. A recent link with SACs Potato Select team to provide advice on all aspects of production should improve that quality drive, he believes.

The group was set up by Walkers to supply its crisping growers with reliable seed, and that is still the core of Saltires business. But Mr Rhind is keen to expand business elsewhere with non-crisping growers.

Seed and ware growers interests are inextricably linked, he stresses. "We can only survive if the ware producer survives."

Another example of seed growers ringing the changes in marketing is the Agrico Growers Association. The 20-member grower group was formed last winter, forging closer links with seedhouse Agrico.

Agrico provides the marketing expertise, and growers commit a tonnage. The seed is sold on an open-book basis, so everybody knows what is sold when, where and to whom.

"In the past we sold spot or on fixed price contracts, so we had no idea what price the potatoes were finally sold at. I feel that is a very important point for the growers – they are really keen on the transparency of these transactions," says secretary and Aberdeenshire grower David Chalmers.

The scheme is only a pilot, but if successful membership and tonnage may well be increased. Smoother production cycles should result.

"We should be able to target our plantings better. In the past there was no dialogue with the merchant," he says. &#42

CLOSER LINKS

&#8226 Saltire growers – SAC advice agreement.

&#8226 Agrico Growers Association formed.

&#8226 Breaking down barriers.

&#8226 "Open-book" seed marketing.