The news that supermarket Tesco is to roll out the LEAF Marque environmental standard has been broadly welcomed, but at a time when the industry is struggling with rising costs and stagnant or falling returns, some have questioned how LEAF manages to certify vegetable and potato crops that are largely grown on rented land.
Ashwin Prasad, Chief Product Officer at Tesco, said, “The implementation of the LEAF Marque Standard will help drive environmental improvements across thousands of growers and suppliers, both here in the UK and globally.”
According to its website, LEAF Marque certifies just over 299,000 ha of land around the world, but one Technical Manager in the industry told HortNews, “LEAF claim that 45 per cent of UK fruit and veg is grown by LEAF Marque certified businesses, but how much of that crop and land is actually covered? If you take 45 per cent of the UK potato crop, that would be around 50,000 hectares, so with a one-in-seven rotation, you would more than the 300,000-ha certified just for that.”
He continued, “Many growers are LEAF certified on their own land, but that represents only a small percentage of the crop, so they fudge the certification against the tonnage supplied to particular customers. It works for large land owners, but what about growers using up to 90 per cent rented land?”
According to the latest LEAF Marque standard, all growers using land rented for less than three years need to do is demonstrate that that have asked the landlord for details of their conservation management practices – not that such practices need to be in place.