THE local buying team at Tesco is working with its vegetable processor partners to support growers and ensure that supply meets demand over the busy Christmas period, despite the extensive damage caused to harvests brought about by recent bad weather.
National bodies like the British Growers Association are reporting that some GB supermarkets may have to import winter vegetables this Christmas, because of potential shortages.
However, in reversal of this trend, the Tesco team in Northern Ireland has been working tirelessly for months with the entire supply chain to have local potatoes and vegetables on the supermarket shelves this Christmas.
Angus Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Country based in Portadown, said: “It’s well documented that 2012 was the worst potato season in almost 30 years. We started off the season in a weaker position, with over 20% less acres planted due to rising costs in the sector, over supply last year and growers keen to spread their risk as a result. But when the poor weather hit, yields were on average 25-30% lower than 2011.”
Cliff Kells, commercial manager, Tesco NI said: “The impact of the poor weather has been exceptional and growers and processors have gone the extra mile to ensure we make the very best out of the poor harvests.
“Whilst it would have been an option to draw supply from other parts of the UK and Europe, we took a conscious decision, in keeping with our local sourcing policy, to support the local growers as much as we can. That is why we responded promptly to the crisis, working with Wilson’s Country, Gilfresh Produce who both draw supply from growers all over Northern Ireland. Both processors are working hard to get the most out of every crop, which is helping the growers, and we have worked closely with our local suppliers to introduce flexibility around specifications. This, coupled with strong messages and communication in store, means that consumers will still be able to avail of the great quality product they have come to expect from Tesco.”
Thomas Gilpin, owner, Gilfresh Produce says: “Even despite the difficulties this year, we are supplying local sprouts to Tesco for the first time this season, which is great news. We are re-evaluating all produce sourcing on a daily basis to ensure on-going continuity of supply for Tesco. By working together on this we can maximise opportunities, from supporting the growers, giving them confidence for next year, right through to giving Tesco customers local produce too, so we’ve been trying to achieve a win/win for everyone.”