Ged Futter, director at The Retail Mind, has encouraged the agricultural sector to challenge supermarket and distributor demands for low-cost products.

Addressing delegates at the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland conference at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow, Futter hoped to inspire farmers and crofters to work with consumers to build a stronger supply chain.

Futter said: “The 2024 Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) Report firmly states that the practice of farmers subsidising consumers’ appetite for cheap food cannot continue.

“After years of ‘permacrisis’ fuelled by Brexit, the Ukrainian conflict, the Covid-19 pandemic and inflation running up to 20%, farming’s confidence and bank balances are at an all-time, unsustainable, low.

“Recent events have acted as catalysts that have exposed pre-existing and fundamental weaknesses in the supply chain. The level of risk is at an all-time high. Risk versus reward came up consistently in the report for farmers and growers, concluding that with the risk versus reward ratio so far out of kilter, more farmers are asking ‘is it worth producing food?'”

He continued: “Widely, retailers get a bad press but, as I was told on a number of occasions, the most sustainable and efficient distribution model is ‘retail to consumer’ and that the UK has probably the highest standards of production in the world. The further you move away from the UK, the lower those standards can become and the bigger the food safety risk, as well as the food security risk.

“The retailers have become more sophisticated at finding ways of getting better prices and most farmers, growers and packers have not kept up.

Futter concluded: “There is an answer and it starts by saying ‘no’. What will you say ‘no’ to? Are you getting your business ready for the future? Is it a future based on current opportunities or future ones?”