By John Burns
A RETAILING scheme that could bring peace between farmers, processors and supermarkets has been proposed by West Country businessman-turned-farmer David Hill.
He says farmers returns could be improved without affecting supermarkets or processors profits by introducing a system in which all multiple retailers allocated at least one complete aisle to branded “Farmer Price” goods.
Shoppers would know these were guaranteed to be produced, processed and packed in Britain to British standards.
It would also be made clear that 5% of the price consumers paid at the checkout would go to producers, in addition to the usual margin.
Supermarkets could set their own price, says Mr Hill.
The scheme would not affect their commercial relationship with processors or their ability to compete with each other provided all supermarkets agreed to take part.
Research suggests retailers are receptive to the idea and many customers would pay a little extra for guaranteed British produce.
Mr Hill, a suckled beef producer from Devon and founder chairman of Triple S and its subsidiary West Country Beef, which was set up to add value to local beef, has worked out a detailed structure for the scheme.
There would be a body to organise essentials such as brand promotion, marketing support, packaging design and collection and distribution of the 5% royalty on sales.
Initial funding would come from registration fees of perhaps 10 a head.
Normal supermarket quality standards would apply and the usual processors and packers would be used.
But a proportion of the produce would be packed specially for the “Farmer Price” aisles and bar-coded accordingly.
Bar codes at the supermarket checkouts would automatically divert 5% of the price to the Farmer Price account.
He has shown his proposals to NFU president Ben Gill, but found little enthusiasm.
“He didnt want to know. He sees only his kitemark scheme.
“But that wont directly add any money to producers incomes. If its a quality mark it will command the standard price and anything else will be massively discounted. Our scheme by-passes all that.”
However, an NFU spokesman rebuffed Mr Hills criticism: “The scheme seems perfectly sensible and there is a route to bring producers ideas in front of the NFU.
“We explore good ideas and it is unfair to criticise the kitemark when surveys suggest it will bring real benefits.”