Organic meat sales to boom despite home shortage

Tesco sees organic produce as one of its biggest growth areas over the next five years.

The supermarket group will develop a blueprint for organic meat, and will work with the Soil Association and producers in developing the sector, Sean McCurley, category director for meat, fish and poultry, told farmers at a South West of England conference last week. Mr McCurley said Tesco saw organic as one of the 'pillar brands' alongside its Value, Standard and Finest ranges. Organic was among the group's fastest growing sectors, he said, achieving a 60 per cent increase to reach three per cent of red meat sales. The aim will be to reach nearly a 10 per cent sales share by 2010 he told 200 farmers attending the one day conference on the future of the red meat industry in the South West.

UK organic supplies were a problem, Mr McCurley said. While, contrary to the beliefs of many, Tesco overwhelmingly stocks British meat and poultry it has to import half of its organic supplies, he said. To satisfy current demand 750 cattle a week are needed but there are only 500 a week available. He encouraged farmers to look at the sector. He also tried to reassure farmers over forward payments. "If all looks good on the forward price it's a good avenue to go down" he said. "Anybody who goes into the processors contract will be supported by Tesco. If the market goes the other way we will not turn you over."

Mr McCurley admitted Tesco's Producers Club is not as good as it could be at the moment. The group will put more money into it next year, he said. He was equally frank about the current problems facing beef farmers. "Can I sleep at night knowing that farmers are producing at below cost price?" he asked. "Yes." The industry could not expect to move from a subsidised to non-subsidised regime overnight, "What I'm not going to do is put up prices by 40 per cent." To do so would be to "kiss goodbye to the red meat industry", he said.

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