Farmers favour supplying foodservice over supermarkets

British farmers would rather supply local food hubs and foodservice operators than supermarkets and large manufacturers, a survey has found.

The Sustain alliance worked with market researcher Agrismart to explore how 500 farmers from across England and Wales feel about issues of centralised buying and long-distance supply chains.

The results showed just 5% of farmers would prefer to sell to a supermarket, processor or manufacturer despite 86% currently doing so. 

The top three preferences were to sell to a food hub (55%), direct to customers (36%) and/or into foodservice (29%).

Overall, 56% of respondents said they want to supply into a different market than they do currently and a further 20% of farmers said they would consider doing so. 

The main perceived benefits farmers saw for changing supply chains were better margins, more direct links to the customer, delivering more for climate and nature, and building more resilience into the business.

Many also felt that changing supply chains would help them deliver on soil management, animal welfare, public engagement and better wages for staff.

To successfully move away from the current approach of supplying into supermarkets and larger processors and manufacturers, farmers said they need better access to local infrastructure, affordable finance, marketing knowledge, and market outlets like established box schemes or food hubs.

Sustain is recommending that, to help farmers diversify, the government, local authorities, local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and stakeholders work together to create growth action plans to increase the market share of farmer-focused supply chains and local and regional food systems to 25% by 2035. 

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