Monday, July 15, 2019

Growers count cost of Birds Eye withdrawal

February 4, 2010 by  
Filed under News & Business, Crops

Almost 200 pea growers are counting the cost after Birds Eye withdrew contacts from farmers across Norfolk and Suffolk.

In a move covering more than 4,500ha (11,120 acres), the company axed 20% of its total UK pea production after parent company Premira lost a large contract in Italy.

Members of the Anglian Pea Growers co-operative grow around 30,000t of peas a year, worth an estimated £5m. Some of the 180 farmers involved had been growing peas for Birds Eye for 64 years.

The NFU described the decision as a huge disappointment.  NFU horticulture board chairman Sarah Pettitt said: “This is terrible news for local growers, some of whom will have been supplying peas to the plant for more than 60 years.”

Growers across East Anglia had spent considerable time, effort and resource on ensuring that they provide the consistent quality product consumers had come to expect at a value for money price.

The Birds Eye announcement was all the more telling because it came at a time when growers had been feeling more positive about their position as the nation’s food suppliers, said Ms Pettitt.

Recent government announcements had confirmed the importance of ensuring that farmers were in a position to produce more food, she added. “I urge Birds Eye to re-consider their approach to this decision.”

Some 230 pea growers across Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Perthshire are unaffected by the decision. The Birds Eye processing plant at Lowestoft will remain open and will process other frozen foods.

That is cold comfort for Anglian growers who were about to start drilling – they must now try to find viable alternatives, such as marrowfats and spring beans.

But supplies of top varieties of marrowfat peas Genki and Sakura have already sold out for the 2010 season.

Even so, a window of opportunity remains open for many growers left reeling by the termination of their contracts, said James Wallace of Daltons Seeds, Peterborough.

Supplies of seed available for top yielding large blue pea Crackerjack are still available.

“This variety has shown consistent performance over the last four years with good standing and disease resistance, and is in demand by micronisers and exporters.

“The message for growers now is get the seed into store so that you have a viable crop to put in this spring.”

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