More suppliers sought as Tesco Finest range increases in popularity

The growing popularity of

quality beef, as well as organic beef and lamb, means that South Wales based St Merryn Foods is looking for more farmer suppliers.

Extra supplies of quality animals are being sought to meet demand for Tesco Finest beef products and its range of organic meats. To encourage farmers to join up,

contracts that offer forward

prices and allow for accurate future

planning are now being offered.

St Merryn's livestock

director, John Dracup, said the

Merthyr Tydfil based company is looking for extra suckler-bred,

traditionally-reared cattle to meet the huge growth in demand.

"Year-on-year growth in terms of volume is looking excellent so we're looking for thousands of extra cattle and a considerable number of farmers to join us in meeting the opportunities ahead," he said.

The specification laid down for Tesco's Finest range means that traditional farming systems must be used and the cattle must be supplementary fed for the final 90 days to ensure that maximum

eating quality characteristics of the meat are achieved.

Animals ranging from 14 to 30 months in age will be eligible,

depending on the farming regime employed. A wide range of

commercial beef breeds will

qualify. Steers and heifers will be accepted, but not young bulls.

St Merryn is offering 5p a kg above the standard price for

animals that meet the criteria, and match the specification of weights and grades.

Opportunities are looking equally promising for organic beef and lamb farmers, and those thinking about entering the

market. "Year-on-year growth in organic meat sales is huge," said Dracup. "It's growing significantly and Tesco suggests that it's going to grow at a considerable rate over the next three-to-five years."

Organic supplies are fully

audited so farmers who consider applying to St Merryn will have to be members of a Defra

recognised organic farming scheme, such as ones run by the Soil Association and Organic Farmers and Growers.

"We're offering forward

contracts on the supply of both

organic beef and lamb so we can give farmers a far better idea of what they can earn," said Dracup.

Farmers thinking of going over to organic production should be aware that there is a two-year

conversion programme.

"We're offering long term

forward prices so that people can budget and plan accordingly," said Dracup. He warned those

considering taking the step to seek out definite customers first. That will allow for a managed change and greatly lessen the risk of the

market suddenly being flooded with organic produce.

Tesco has said its plan over the next five years is to substantially grow its Finest, Organic, Standard, Value and Health brands.

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