McCain, the largest manufacturer of frozen potato products in the United Kingdom, has launched the McCain Potato Farmer Pledge, an investment of £25 million in the British potato industry. The money will help UK farmers manage increasingly erratic weather conditions as well deal with the impact of the novel coronavirus (SARS-C0V-2) pandemic. The investment will also strengthen the company’s partnerships with growers and benefit those in wider industries including those in retail and hospitality sectors.
“British potato farmers have been hit immensely hard in recent years,” said Howard Snape, Regional President at McCain GB & Ireland. “Having faced a major drought and the wettest harvest on record, they’ve experienced two of the worst crops in 40 years. Added to that, without us honoring our contracts with growers and finding alternative outlets, they would have been left with a huge surplus of wasted potatoes due to Covid-19 shutting down the hospitality industry.
“The investment will not only help the potato industry, but will also strengthen McCain’s partnerships with farmers and support the wider supply chain including our customers and suppliers. However, we can’t do this alone. To overcome the challenges facing growers, everyone needs to take the initiative to work collaboratively. It’s why within our sector we’re committed to working with farmers, customers, industry leadership groups and government to create a sustainable future for years to come.”
The £25 million McCain Potato Farmer Pledge has been worked on with farmer feedback and is split into three parts:
- Multi-year Incentives – A 3- to 5-year loyalty scheme rewarding farmers who continue to grow. The program will help support the farming, hospitality and retail industries through a more stable and sustainable supply of potatoes.
- Grant Funding – Growers may apply for grants to invest in harvesting capacity and improved sustainable potato growing through irrigation infrastructure and innovative new technology such as self-propelled harvesters. Already, 85 applications have been received.
- Sustainable Contracts – Alongside honoring contracts during the Covid-19 health crisis, McCain is optimizing its contracts by improving prices on early season varieties so farmers get fair prices, and building greater flexibility into the farm-to-production system, to reduce delays. This is in addition to the Indexation Model pioneered by McCain in 2007, which measures changes in the costs of production to ensure fair and sustainable contract pricing for growers.
The company has also decided to allocate 40 per cent of the investment this year when farmers need it most, due to being hit by both severe weather and Covid-19’s enforced closure of the hospitality sector leaving a backlog of potatoes that cannot be utilized. This immediate funding will be delivered through grower contracts with McCain, grant funding and multi-year incentive offers.
Alongside the pledge McCain has also been helping farmers navigate the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to an oversupply of potatoes caused by the closure of bars and restaurants. As part of its commitment to honor all grower contracts, the company worked to minimize wastage by reallocating potato varieties normally earmarked for foodservice to retail product lines, donating surplus stock to food banks via its partnership with FareShare and, where possible, storing potato stock for use next season.