The head of meat producer Vion’s UK business has warned retailers that a guaranteed source of supply in farming should no longer be taken for granted.

Ton Christiaanse, who leads a business that includes Grampian Country Food Group, which Vion acquired last year, said the UK grocery industry needed to show support to the farming sector.

“There’s a need to recognise that raw materials are not a tap to turn on, or off, at will. The industry cannot afford to pay lip service to farming, and farming is too fragile to subsidise the rest of the food chain,” Christiaanse told the IGD’s annual convention in London yesterday (12 October).

Christiaanse said farmers need to increase food output by around 70% by 2050, while the demand for food will increase by 50% in less than 20 years.

He said Vion had been working to meet these needs with its sow productivity growing 6% over the last two years and feed conversion rates improving by 7%.

However, Christiaanse is seeking broader support for the challenge of feeding a growing population.

“The world expects farmers to make an enormous transformation; to re-position our production systems to increase both their efficiency and their environmental sustainability. Globally, farming is big business, but it is not big enough to meet these challenges alone. This requires the active collaboration of all supply chain partners, from farmers and processors, to retailers and foodservice operators, and also consumers.”