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Birds Eye deals UK pea blow
by freshinfo.com - 09/02/2010
"Frozen food specialist Birds Eye has cancelled the contracts of almost half its UK pea growers in a “disappointing blow” to the industry."
Birds Eye said 180 farmers covering an area in excess of 4,500 hectares across Norfolk and Suffolk would be affected due to the withdrawal of an Italian export deal and that it made the announcement with "great regret".
It is estimated that the loss of the deal will cost growers an estimated £5.5 million in lost income. An unconfirmed number of people are set to lose their jobs.
Birds Eye, which is owned by private equity group Permira, said the Italian contract had been cancelled at short notice and that they became aware of the situation late in December.
Anne Murphy, managing director of Birds Eye, told the BBC's Farming Today programme that the company will be in "dialogue" with the affected farmers "over the coming weeks around what [the] next steps are".
Murphy highlighted that "a very strong working relationship" continues for the company's 230 pea growers across Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Perthshire, who will not be affected.
The frozen food company said it had looked into alternatives but said the cancellation of contracts had been the "right decision for the business".
Sarah Pettitt, chairman of the National Farmers’ Union's Board for Horticulture said: “This is terrible news for growers in East Anglia, some of whom will have been supplying peas to the plant for more than 60 years. The British pea is renowned the world over for its taste and quality and growers in this region and in the country as a whole have spent considerable time, effort and resource on ensuring that they provide the consistent quality product that consumers have come to expect at a value for money price.
“I urge Birds Eye to reconsider their approach to this decision. In Anglian pea growers they will find partners willing to discuss constructively the problems that Birds Eye face, with the aim of trying to find alternative solutions than simply turning out the lights on their freezing plant.”
Some of the affected farms in Norfolk and Suffolk have been supplying the firm for 65 years, since the UK's first frozen peas were produced in Great Yarmouth.
Birds Eye simultaneously confirmed the move would not affect its 15-week £5.5m television advertising campaign for its sub-brand Field Fresh.
More Details: http://www.freshinfo.com/index.php?s=n&ss=nd&sid=50623&s_txt=&s_date=0&ms==0&ntype=nws