Morrisons ‘let down’ Welsh beef group

A senior supermarket executive came under fire at the annual meeting of an NFU Cymru county branch.

Chris Blundell, corporate affairs director of Morrisons Supermarkets, told Montgomeryshire members that the company was fully committed to selling British produce in its 360 stores.

He insisted that it was keen to form strong long-term relationships with producers to supply its five fresh food processing and packaging plants and two abattoirs.

Since taking over Safeway, the company’s 150,000 employees were serving 10m customers every week.

Sales were growing and there were plans to open two more packhouses and another abattoir.

British farms supplied 95% of the beef, 100% of lamb, 95% of the pork and 100% of the milk and fresh and frozen chicken sold.

But beef producer Joylon Higgs said that he and about 50 other Welsh farmers had been let down by Morrisons when it cancelled a Welsh beef procurement arrangement with Safeway.

“We were given just three weeks’ notice when you pulled the plug on the Safeway group,” Mr Higgs told Mr Blundell.

John Jones, another member of the former group, said he felt very let down when he lost the 5p/kg premium earned for working hard to meet the specifications set.”

Mr Blundell invited the aggrieved producers to send him details of their complaints, but made it clear that the grocery business was very competitive.

Tom Tudor criticised Morrisons for buying only 300 cattle and 600 lambs a week in Wales and then slaughtering them in England.

Mr Blundell said that with only 19 stores in Wales the company would not acquire a Welsh abattoir, and was not prepared to use another company’s facilities.

Huw Besent urged him to stop boasting about making 13,000 in-store price cuts in former Safeway stores, which squeezed prices paid to farmers.

Instead it should follow the Waitrose group by going for quality and paying premium prices for premium products.

Mr Besent was told that Morrisons had to cater for the diverse requirements of five times as many customers as Waitrose each week.