23 June 1995

Food chains will bargain hard but allow farm profit

SUPERMARKETS will continue to squeeze ex-farm prices – but growers should not despair.

The main food retailing chains will, most of the time, enable efficient producers to achieve a profitable return. And they will also offer "enormous" scope for closing the food trade gap.

That was the message for visitors to the Processors and Growers Research Organisations annual open day. Sir Alistair Grant, chairman of the Argyll Group, owner of Safeway, said growers must accept supermarket buyers will always try to negotiate the best price. He went on to stress that growers needed to achieve a consistency of supply, presentation and quality to maximise profit potential.

But Sir Alistair also emphasised the role of large supermarkets in boosting demand and sales. The range of choice, product development, hygiene and service in UK supermarkets surpassed equivalent outlets in most other European countries.

As chairman of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Sir Alistair outlined the extensive work aimed at helping UK growers produce more of the nations food.

This winter Safeway will test-market the first British baked beans, currently being grown on 12ha (30 acres) in southern England. Although large-scale production remains some way away, the crop offers a potential saving of £40m on the nations food import bill, he said.

&#8226 Two new blue pea varieties, Hampton and Elan, are possible replacements for Solara, according to PGRO senior technical officer Steve Belcher. Similar in appearance, the two varieties have out-yielded Solara in trials. Other combining peas worth watching are Celica, Delta and Focus. The most promising vining peas are Zamira, Point, Geneva and Sigra.

, he added.