Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Annex 1


  Below are some example of where Tesco has worked with suppliers to improve the businesses and meet customer demands. We hope that these will help to illustrate the points that we have made in our submission.


Harper Adams Master Classes

  In partnership, Tesco and Harper Adams University College began a new initiative this year with the aim of increasing the transparency and understanding of the supply chain. The scheme hopes to explain current retailer and major supplier practices and developments, and raise an understanding of what customers want and how an efficient modern supply chain should look and operate. It also outlines the challenges and financial hurdles facing the industry, with practical advice and solutions.

  The Master Classes take form in a series of one-day seminars, in which a number of prominent figures from the industry give talks and lead seminars. The event features presentations, discussions and practical experience that incorporates the view from Tesco, the fresh produce sector and industry experts. Growers and representatives of produce organisations from all parts of the supply chain and those interested in its development are invited to attend.

Newcastle University

  Tesco is sponsoring a five-year scheme at Newcastle University into research on organic production. Agricultural land and a special research centre have been set aside exclusively for this project, which could enable British farmers to have the knowledge and confidence to convert to organic agricultural production. The research is being led by Professor Carlo Liefert, a world leading expert in organic food production.

  The farm has been split into two sections in order to compare conventional and organic farming, monitoring things such as crop yield, disease control and environmental effects. The team at Newcastle will be finding new natural ways to combat the weeds, pests and diseases which conventional growers have solved by using chemicals. The project will also consider the economics of the organic market and benefits of conversion.

  It is hoped that this research will help equip British farmers with the best information available, which eventually will help reduce the volume of imported organic foods and build a strong British organic production base.

Oxford Farm Animal Initiative

  Tesco sponsors the Farm Animal Initiative (FAI) at Oxford University, which was set up to look at animal welfare standards and modern food production systems with the aim developing sustainable farm systems that provide discernible benefits to animal welfare, the environment and human health. FAI has the tenancy of the Wytham Estate, which it runs on a commercial basis with the support of the University's research teams, particularly the Department of Zoology. The scheme aims to demonstrate the success of these alternatives through practical and commercial application and to share knowledge and training with farmers and other members of the food production industries.


Best Beef Scheme

  The Tesco Best Beef scheme was developed to address the falling quality of beef animals and the apparent surplus of calves coming through the dairy herd. The springboard for the scheme was the co-operation between Express Dairies, who provide milk for Tesco, and Southern Counties, a Tesco beef supplier. The aim of the scheme is to provide a completely traceable, welfare-driven beef chain from calf to consumer.

  The dairy farmers who supply Express Dairies are encouraged to use semen from bulls of known genetic merit under the Meat and Livestock Commission's Best Beef Sire list. This helps secure a better market for the calves and eliminates the need for dairy farmers to use the calves as a by-product of the dairy industry. Dairy farmers have the option of either finishing the calves themselves or selling to Southern Counties Producer Club members through Quality Calves. The benefit for the farmers who rear and finish the calves lie both in the prospect of better quality beef and the fact that the calves are likely to finish up to 40 days quicker than animals produced outside the scheme.

  The scheme is further enhanced by the role played by Quality Calves Ltd, a farmer owned co-operative that markets 50,000 calves a year. The company arranges the grouping and batched transportation of animals to ensure they are not only moved according to the latest welfare guidance established by the industry and monitored by the RSPCA, but that those movements are kept to a minimum. As such, Quality Calves provides the vital link between the dairy farmer and the finisher ensuring that the traceability and welfare of calves during transportation is strictly adhered to.


Kitchen Garden Produce, Lincolnshire

  A farming couple approached Tesco five years ago when they saw we were importing shallots. They offered to start growing shallots for local stores on a trial basis. The trial was very successful and we decided to roll out supply to all Tesco stores. This is an excellent example of British produce beating off foreign competition. It is also an example of how partnership can lead to a managed program of growth for the small business and the product.

Organic parsnips, Norfolk

  A farmer/packer in Norfolk working with Tesco has just started its first season of organic parsnips. This is part of a five-year investment programme on their part based on a three-year conversion period and a new pack house. We had been feeding back to farmer/packers what consumers want. This farmer took up the challenge because he had the confidence that Tesco had accurate information on customers' tastes and attitudes and there would be a market for his parsnips.

Iceberg lettuces, UK

  We have encouraged a producer of lettuces to provide iceberg lettuces 52 weeks of the year. The producers did this by investing in farms in Spain, so there is no off season period for these British producers. The British season is their starting point, they then move to manage and supply crops from Spain to maintain quality icebergs all year round.

  So although the icebergs are being imported, it is good for UK farmers, growers and suppliers and helps them stay profitable by avoiding off-season and by using their expertise to grow to exactly what UK consumers want.

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