By FWi staff

DEALING with large food retailers might be a nightmare, but few producers these days can afford to ignore the needs of the major supermarket chains, a senior food-retailing consultant warned this week.

Farmers who want to prosper must become more integrated into the food supply chain, Teresa Wickham told listeners to the Midland Bank Lecture at Plymouth Universitys Seale-Hayne Faculty this week.

Ms Wickham, who works with many of the UKs largest supermarket chains, said farmers must realise that building closer links with major food retailers will soon become a way of life.

Failure to fulfil the strict quality requirements laid down by supermarkets could lead to more retailers buying food products from abroad, she added.

Farmers who are serious about survival must increase their marketability – either through joint alliance-mergers or co-operatives, she urged.

Consistency, discipline, and quality are all important factors for retailers and manufacturers when sourcing food products, Ms Wickham said.

The marketplace today is challenging and complex. Farmers must become more involved if they want to reap the benefits, she concluded.