River promoters are calling for urgent action from Tesco to immediately raise standards among poultry and egg suppliers in the Y Valley, as they say the river is at risk of environmental degradation.
The supermarket giant is the largest customer of major egg and chicken producing companies. Proponents say it is the key to saving the river from irreparable environmental degradation caused by high phosphate levels from manure produced by intensive poultry farming.
In a letter to Tesco’s senior executives on behalf of his lawyers, campaign group River Action said: The local environment, including the rivers on which the communities, including their farmers, depend. “
Tesco is the largest customer of Noble Foods, an egg producer in Y Valley, and Avara Foods, a chicken producer. Environmental promoters say that after the supermarket giant moved to Avara in 2019 as the main supplier of chickens, the food supply company has expanded its poultry factory in Hereford to meet demand. Avara applied for permission to expand its hatchery in Shobdan last month and is awaiting a decision in the next fortnight.
The Y Valley has become one of the largest centers of intensive livestock production in Europe. Poultry production has increased, with more than 20 million birds kept in approved intensive poultry units alone, each with more than 40,000 birds. Water quality throughout the catchment continues to fail at current standards due to high phosphate concentrations. Research from Lancaster University found evidence that the Y Valley contains 3,000 tons of excess phosphorus due to agriculture.
Paul Withers, a professor of catchment biochemistry at Lancaster University, said in a parliamentary inquiry that the phosphorus surplus in Y catchment is about 60% higher than the national average because large quantities of cattle manure are produced locally. Poultry is predominant in this area.
River Action lawyer Leigh Day said in her letter: “Evidence shows that if these problems continue to be ignored, the Y River will face environmental degradation beyond repair. High phosphate levels will continue to suffocate river life by creating algae blossoms, destroying biodiversity and wildlife.
“In a short period of time, it is clear to our clients that Tesco is playing a key role in saving the environment from extinction, which will eventually lead to the death of the Y River. Instead of taking such risks, there is a way to change driving across the river catchment. “
River Action says previous contact with Tesco 18 months ago did not lead to any action from the supermarket giant. It is urging Tesco to raise the environmental standards of its supply chain. It wants to see Tesco recognize sustainably farmed products in its poultry supply chain by the end of 2022 – a global assurance system that promises to meet Leafmark standards and wants to audit all suppliers against agreed standards by the end of 2022.
It urges Tesco to release an environmental risk assessment related to its poultry supply chain and to obtain a commitment from suppliers to change their practices to stop pollution immediately.
Charles Watson, founder and chairman of River Action, said: “The company does not appear to have registered as the river has experienced environmental degradation due to nutrient contamination caused by the intensive poultry industry. Tesco must not allow its potential to contribute to the destruction of one of the country’s favorite rivers by continuing to purchase poultry products without the need for major environmental improvements from suppliers. “
High levels of phosphate in the river cause algae to bloom, which reduces oxygen levels, destroys wildlife and biodiversity, causing species damage.
A spokesman for Tesco said: “Protecting and maintaining water quality and biodiversity in our supply chain is an important part of the work we do with our suppliers, and we want to play our part in ensuring the safety of the Y River, along with other actors in the food industry.
“Together with our partner WWF, we have directly funded the work of the Wye & Usk Foundation in tackling water pollution in the area. They work directly with our suppliers to implement nature-based solutions, including tree planting, as well as assist farmers in testing the soil and applying best practices on farms that all help reduce Wye River pollution.
“We continue to strive to engage with suppliers and stakeholders in all agricultural sectors in the region.”