Firm replies to pig query
AT the suggestion of our NFU regional office we wrote a letter to the company chairman, or managing director, of firms with whom we do business as well as some with whom we have regular contact.
The idea was to explain the plight of the UK pig industry, to outline the quality, traceability and welfare standards of home-produced meat and ask for their support when sourcing food for their canteens and restaurants.
Of the 15 letters sent on June 10, headed "Top Credentials for UK Pork & Bacon" we received five replies. British Sugar and the Environment Agency confirmed that they sourced their canteen food requirements from British producers. Norwich Union, while admitting that all fresh meat was of UK origin, had to concede that Danish bacon was sourced on grounds of cost, but that this policy would be reviewed since home producers were in need of support.
Anglian Water similarly supported British pig farmers by buying our ham but their bacon came from Holland – I wonder how certain they are about the ham?
John MacLeod from the National Institute of Agricultural Botany was most supportive, as one would expect, but admitted to a modest in-house canteen using predominantly British supplies.
With only a 33% response we sent the letter out again on August 2 – it must have been a wet day during harvest!
This brought another five responses. The Inland Revenue sent a brief note advising that they did not have canteen facilities at the Peterborough Tax Office and likewise Advanta Seeds UK and Quality Equipment (GE Baker (UK) Ltd). Both the last mentioned were supportive, Advanta suggesting that their suppliers of occasional sandwiches would be advised of the companys preference for British Pork products.
British Telecom was "delighted to inform us that purchases of fresh pork were from inside the UK – its good to eat pork". The next line spoilt the warm feeling one might have had for this multinational mega-star "The price of British Bacon is currently approximately 10% more expensive, thus we are sourcing bacon from Holland." The food and services development director from BT Services Division, who act as caterers to BT, said that her policy was to provide choice through offering value for money. But what about the quality, traceability and welfare considerations?
Clearly, like so many consumers, even when faced with the facts, only price matters.
Our response from the officer responsible for catering matters at RAF Wittering was somewhat more long-winded but followed a similar line to BT. It appears that the task of buying food for the Armed Forces is contracted out to Booker Foodservice. The Ministry of Defence, it appears, instructs the contractor to seek the best price in the open market for food and does not specify country of origin and encourages them to buy British food only when it is competitive.
In August it appears that the Armed Forces were sourcing all their pork from UK producers, but only 50% of bacon and gammon – "on value for money grounds".
Since it was the UK Parliament, by passing punitive legislation, that has made our product non-competitive, you would have thought that ministers would at least have tried to redress the balance by instructing the Armed Forces to buy British – after all, it is the best, and only the best should be good enough for men and women who take the Queens shilling.
But what of the third column in our table of name and shame, the 33% of chairmen and managing directors who failed to even have the courtesy of replying to our letters. East Midlands Electricity, BOC Gases, Xerox UK, National Tyre Service and Travis Perkins – enough said, I think. We, at least, will be looking for alternatives when sourcing products previously bought from these companies.
Sugar beet lift
We now have the results of the first lift of sugar beet.
The table below shows a summary of results and compares it with the same lift over the past four seasons. Not only does the table draw together the figures in last weeks report (On our Farms, Nov 12) it also highlights an exceptional clean root yield of 57.12t/ha (23.12t/acre).
The first lift at Easton Lodge is always around mid- to late-October, so that the significant fall-off in sugars is surprising but not as surprising as the top tare. *
Top credentials for UK pork and bacon
Response Response No
to letter to reply
Seeds UK X
Anglian Water X
BOC Gases X
British Sugar X
British Telecom X
Inland Revenue X
of Ag Botany X
National Tyres X
Norwich Union X
(GE Baker (UK)) X
RAF Wittering X
Travis Perkins X
Xerox UK X
Sugar beet 1st lifting summary four years comparison
1996 1997 1998 1999
Area lifted (ha) 8.88 9.4 9.0 7.0
Yield: Clean beet (t/ha) 39.60 60.00 50.59 57.12
Average sugar (%) 19.4 18.0 18.6 16.2
Yield: Adj.wt (t/ha) 51.60 70.00 54.81 58.20
Total Tare (%) 13.0 12.0 12.0 14.0
Top Tare (%) 7.0 7.0 5.0 9.0
Value (interim price) (£/t) 37.72 30.17 29.41 28.80
Transport rate (£/t) *8.04 5.10 4.80 4.69
* Processing factory was Bury St Edmunds, changed to Newark in 1997.