Dear Fresh Produce Scheme Member,

As we head into another challenging summer, I want to share some updates and insights from the recent meeting of the Red Tractor Fresh Produce Sector board.

Your reputation: Like many other Red Tractor sectors, we discussed the impact of the increased scrutiny on the organisation over past six months, and the need for Red Tractor to raise its game in communicating to members. There was also significant agreement in the room that Red Tractor assurance provides vital due diligence, protecting food safety, providing customers with peace of mind and safeguarding industry reputation.

Protecting your data: We had been approached by DEFRA to request sharing of member lists to help populate their register of professional users of pesticides to inform OCR inspections. The board agreed that we would not be prepared to do so without stronger evidence of benefit to farms.

Regulatory headwinds: The landscape of fresh produce is currently marked by significant concerns over import charges and energy costs. Members of the board reported that although energy positions have improved since the COVID period, the new Border Target Operating Model presents challenges for import of seed and plants.

Challenging weather: Members in the room recognised this spring has been particularly challenging due to wet weather conditions, impacting planting schedules and overall business operations. The variance in weather continues to be a formidable challenge, with expectations of a drought this summer. While retailers are becoming more responsive to these challenges, there remains a need for greater flexibility to support the sector effectively.

The next generation: Moreover, the industry is exploring innovative approaches to engage the next generation in fresh produce. Initiatives like using Minecraft to simulate vertical farming and securing funding from the FSA for food safety outbreak management training are steps towards modernising our approach and ensuring safety.

Increasing audit efficiency: We are continually working to listen and addressing your concerns, especially regarding audit efficiency. To assist us with this we are encouraging all members to complete the post assessment survey. This provides us with valuable insight that we can use to improve the audit process.

Kind regards,

Lucy MacLennan Chair, Fresh Produce Sector, Red Tractor

Fresh Produce board:

Sarah Blanford – Retailer

Veryan Bliss – Technical Consultant

Tim Casey – Grower and NFU

Peter Illman – Retailer

Damon Johnson – Retailer, BRC

David Kennedy – Technical Consultant

James Lee – Grower

Tim Papworth – Grower and NFU

         Phil Pearson, Grower

Kelly Shields – Fresh Produce Consortium

Stephen Shields – Grower