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Impact of weather conditions on UK production

23 July 2018

Following discussion at the FPC Technical Group meeting last week FPC has issued a letter for FPC members within the supply chain to send to their customers with regard to the impact of the current UK weather conditions. Please feel free to circulate this letter to your customers.

We hope that FPC members who are retailers and customers of other members and are receiving this letter directly from us will take on board the severity of the situation and support their suppliers.

We would be pleased to hear back from you with regard to any feedback and to keep abreast of the issues arising from the prolonged dry spell.

 

Impact of current weather conditions on UK production

You will be aware that we are experiencing a prolonged period of dry weather in the UK immediately following a cold, wet spring which is having an impact on UK production of fresh fruit, salads, vegetables and cut flowers.  Whilst the UK fresh produce industry is used to dealing with fluctuations in growing conditions this continuing situation is causing unprecedented challenges for the UK supply chain in both meeting our usual high standards of quality and providing a sustainable supply of certain products. With increasing demand from consumers for certain products, the need for irrigation and the impact of water restrictions, FPC members are seeing around a forty percent increase in programmes in some areas.

As the UK trade association for the fresh produce industry we are contacting you on behalf of our members to ask for your support during this period.  We appreciate that many of you are already in dialogue with your suppliers and have taken steps to be flexible regarding your specifications and shelf-life.  We would ask you to continue this practice, and to recognise that this situation is likely to continue for several months, in particular for crops still to come to harvest, and even when we do eventually receive sufficient rainfall to ameliorate the situation.

WRAP has raised concerns regarding the potential for increase wastage of products, and through the Fresh Produce Working Group we have discussed initiatives such as having a more flexible approach to customer specifications and shelf-life as a means of minimising waste under these conditions.

In addition, we would like to raise with you the need to recognise additional pressures on the supply chain in terms of shortages in sourcing and retaining sufficient temporary workers to harvest, pack and distribute products.  This is leading to the need to extend working hours on occasion to meet customer demand.  This has become necessary in these exceptional circumstances and is put in place under strict conditions to comply with the requirements of the GLAA licensing standards, namely:

  • A worker must not be forced to work more than 48 hours a week on average unless they agree to work beyond this limit.
  • Any agreement must be voluntary, in writing and signed by the worker.
  • A worker must be free to amend or cancel this agreement, subject to notice requirements.

Throughout this difficult period our members continue to ensure that they meet every legal compliance and put workers’ welfare as a top priority.

We would ask for you to take a pragmatic approach to any FPC member who seeks to put in place a temporary extension of working hours whilst complying with the above conditions and your unique specifications.

The pressures on sourcing temporary labour are recognised and likely to be exacerbated over the coming months as we approach Brexit.  We have joined with other organisations in the UK food and drink industry to lobby the UK Government to put in place measures to assist the industry and to help ensure that we can continue to provide a sustainable supply of UK fresh produce.

If you would like to discuss any of these aspects further, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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