Tesco’s warning to New Zealand farmers

British supermarket chain Tesco wants to make sure that all the fresh produce, meat and dairy products it sells are sustainable, including those that come from New Zealand farmers.

Tesco’s sustainable farming manager, Alice Ritchie, said the supermarket chain was the biggest buyer of New Zealand produce in Brittany.

She said the company wanted to get to net zero across its entire supply chain by 2050. “It’s important to us what happens in New Zealand and how it feeds into our broader reduction plans.

“By around 2025 to 2030, we want to make sure that 100% of what we source in terms of fresh produce, meat and dairy is environmentally accredited. We’re still not sure what that means for our New Zealand farmers.”

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In the year to September 30, New Zealand exported 36,340 tonnes of sheep meat to the UK, worth more than $521 million.

Tesco has more than 2,300 stores across Europe Y Asia.

Tesco’s UK suppliers had to measure and report their carbon footprints last year, and needed to commit to a net zero future this year.

They also needed to set science-based emissions reduction targets starting next year and were recently told they had to switch to renewable electricity at some point, Ritchie said.

Nearly half of Tesco’s emissions come from agriculture and since it sources food from New Zealand, a large part of its emissions are generated here, Ritchie said.

Alice Ritchie, Tesco UK Farm Sustainability Manager


Alice Ritchie, Tesco UK Farm Sustainability Manager

New Zealand, which already had sustainability programs and was introducing climate regulations for agricultureit was ahead of other countries, he said.

Ritchie said the company was required to report its emissions based on a metric that gave methane a CO2 equivalent.

UK farmers were able to offset agricultural emissions, for example by claiming carbon credits for having hedgerows. This, in turn, lowered Tesco’s emissions profile, he said.

This was not yet the case in New Zealand..

UK suppliers submitted their weather data every year and this, in turn, was fed into Tesco’s weather reports, it said.

Tracking the progress of emissions on farms would become a requirement for supply to Tesco, it added.

“We know from the UK context and we know what we will be asking of UK farmers, but it will be interesting to find out what environmental accreditation looks like in international supply chains.”

Gerhard Uys/Things

The farmers sat down for a haircut and a discussion about the environmental issues they face on their farms in Fieldays.

The way the market has approached claims about climate initiatives by food companies has changed this year, Ritchie said.

Where products with climate claims previously sold for a premium, 41-year high inflation meant UK consumers valued price and quality over buying premium products with climate credentials, he said.

Consumers now expected all products to be sustainably sourced, he said.

In the future, a government framework in addition to certification schemes would be important when the company imports products, he said.

The supermarket relied heavily on data collected from farms.

It allowed them, for example, to show that it was selling milk from UK farmers with the lowest climate impact in the country, he said.

Data collection would become the norm for good business practice and help relationships along the supply chain, he said.

The company not only focused on the climate, but also focused on biodiversity, soil health, water management, workers’ human rights and animal welfare, he said.

New Zealand Farm Assurance Scheme Chairman Nick Beeby says New Zealand has independently audited standards and systems for measuring farm environmental performance.


New Zealand Farm Assurance Scheme Chairman Nick Beeby says New Zealand has independently audited standards and systems for measuring farm environmental performance.

New Zealand Farm Guarantee Scheme Chairman Nick Beeby said New Zealand had independently audited the standards and systems for measuring farm performance.

About 8,000 sheep and cattle farmers have signed up for an agricultural guarantee program, it said.

Those standards provided market opportunities, Beeby said.

The program was reviewed every year and could be easily adapted to the requirements set by clients, he said.

Beeby said retailers often set the direction of the market and UK retailers have long required farm guarantee schemes.

Retailers were translating consumer trends and protecting their own brands by setting standards, he said.

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