30 August 2002

Spud processor targets co-ops

ONE of the UKs largest processors of fresh potatoes has taken steps to cut out middlemen – including co-ops – and deal with farmers directly.

Lincs-based QV Foods, which supplies Sainsburys, Tesco and Marks & Spencer, has attracted criticism for changing the terms of its supply contracts. But procurement manager Alan Bell denied this would affect growers who dealt with the firm directly.

"We have amended our potato payment terms from 28 days to 45 days for all potato merchants, which brings us in line with current practice in the sector."

Organisations taking a marketing fee, including co-ops and grower groups, would be classed as a merchant, confirmed Mr Bell, who said the company preferred to deal with individual farmers and would continue to offer them the standard 28-day terms.

"We want to improve supply chain efficiencies. We dont feel the merchants margin is justified."

Lisa Patterson, NFU arable adviser for potatoes, said she was surprised, especially as the Curry Report encouraged co-operation.

"It is disappointing farmer-owned groups are being classified as merchants. The message we have been getting from packers and processors is that they would rather deal with fewer suppliers." &#42