Supply chain · 22 February 2017

Morrisons set to recruit hundreds more small UK suppliers

Morrisons’ The Nation’s Local Foodmakers campaign is set to start in March

Supermarket chain Morrisons has announced plans to recruit 200 more British suppliers, after new research pointed to growing risks in the global food supply chain.

The supermarket’s new campaign – The Nation’s Local Foodmakers – has been launched to sell more British food by getting more local produce on the shelves of every Morrisons store.

The supermarket’s intention is to recruit 200 suppliers from all over England, Scotland and Wales, in the first year of the campaign. Morrisons buyers will tour the country, inviting local producers to pitch their products to the supermarket.

The aim is to reduce the distance food needs to travel, with more shoppers being able to buy more food that was produced within 30 to 60 miles from their nearest Morrisons store.

In a statement, Morrisons chairman, Andy Higginson, said: “We want small UK food suppliers to become bigger ones and we also want to give our customers the option of more food that meets their local food tastes.

“Morrisons is already British farming’s biggest single customer, and the report makes us more determined to produce more of our food and source more from local British suppliers.”

The report, commissioned by Morrisons and conducted by the University of Leeds, found that at the start of 2017, just over half the food sold in the UK comes from local producers.

Political changes in 2016, such as the vote for Brexit in the UK and the election of Donald Trump as president in the US, combined with the growing impact of climate change, have increased the risk of global food supply chain disruption, the report found.

It is likely protectionist economic policies, from developed countries like the US, and increasingly adverse weather conditions will restrict global food supplies, as countries begin stockpiling food resources.

The effects of global food supply chain disruption on the UK was highlighted most recently when severe winter weather in southern Spain caused a major shortage of vegetables on the shelves of British supermarkets and in restaurants.

According to The Guardian, some 80 per cent of the UK’s green vegetables comes from southern Spain during winter months.

This year’s shortage saw the price of items like lettuces, cabbages, broccoli and courgettes almost double in some supermarkets, with rationing also introduced. Morrisons imposed a two-lettuce limit on customers and rationed them to no more than three heads of broccoli, while Tesco and Asda also brought in buying limits.

Commenting on the Morrisons announcement, economist at the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), John Glen, said that global supply chain risk was likely to increase further in 2017.

He warned: “Contingency plans must be put in place to protect supply chains from foreseeable trade barriers. It is more important than ever for supply chain managers to listen to suppliers, develop closer relationships with them and to monitor any changes, so they can react quickly.

“These are uncertain times for supply chain managers and there is no quick fix for the months ahead.”

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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