Farmers and growers who attended heard from four expert speakers: Mark Cox, the director of store operations at Le Riche; Jim Hopley, the chief executive designate of the Channel Islands Co-op; experienced grower Graeme Le Lay and marketing agent William Church of the Jersey Potato Marketing Organisation.
Retailers outlined their continuing commitment to stocking locally-produced food items. They also stressed the difficulties this entails and invited the Island’s producers to contact them directly – and more often – to discuss ways of improving availability and cost-effectiveness of supply.
Genuine Jersey’s chairman Ken Syvret believes the event was a successful first step in bringing the two sides together: “We invited local growers and producers to meet representatives from Jersey’s supermarkets to bring about better understanding and awareness for both groups. The Island’s fishermen, meat producers, vegetable farmers and flower growers were able to discuss issues such as quality of produce and continuity of supply, with the ultimate aim of getting more local goods into the supermarkets,” he said.
Mark Cox of Le Riche added: “We recognise the advantages of stocking local produce. It’s fresher, it’s good for the economy, good for the environment and there is really strong customer demand for it. I think events like this are also important in education terms, especially if they lead to better education of young people. We’d certainly like to continue working together with the industry to ensure local produce continues to occupy prime position on our shelves. We hope that this event has helped break down some of the barriers that possibly existed before and that more local producers will be willing to talk to us about how we can help support their products.”
The Co-op’s Jim Hopley reiterated the points raised and added: “Our policy is to buy local produce before we source from elsewhere, but not every major UK or French multiple that comes here will have the same commitment to the Island. We want to work with growers. We need to talk more often and plan in advance what can be provided. This is the way to expand the business, together. Better education and information will play an important role and, along with in-store tastings, these are some of the initiatives which we’ll be looking at in the future.”