News that Frontier Agriculture has compensated farmer customers who suffered crop failure after buying the oilseed rape variety Ritz in 2009 has been welcomed by the NFU.
Frontier was keen to investigate and address the issues associated with Ritz, retaining and funding an independent crop consultancy to produce individual reports for their farmers and then negotiating fair compensation. Frontier did negotiate directly with farmers, but some cases were settled with the help of the NFU.
The NFU offered legal support and advice to grower members who were affected and the NFU's Legal Assistance Scheme provided substantial financial support for these cases. This included the cost of an independent agronomist's report for members involved to support their individual claim after they were left with almost complete crop failure. In some cases this had followed the seed's failure to germinate and poor vigour of the new spring oilseed rape variety.
Some growers affected by the problem who purchased seed from other merchants are still negotiating this issue. The NFU has praised Frontier's action which it says has negated the need for costly and protracted legal action.
NFU combinable crops board chairman Ian Backhouse said: "This move from Frontier is very welcome and they should be recognised for the action they have taken. This was achieved through negotiation and consultation with the NFU's legal panel firms, Clarke Willmott and Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors, on behalf of their growers, without the need for protracted and costly legal cases.
"We hope others will also follow Frontier's lead and reach settlement for those growers still bearing the brunt of this costly crop failure."
Charlie Whitmarsh, arable inputs director for Frontier Agriculture, said: "Frontier was one of anumber of merchants that sold Ritz. We were subsequently contacted by some customers regarding failure of that crop.
"At Frontier we pride ourselves on the integrity of the service we provide and so when this news reached us, we felt a responsibility to act. Our farmer customers are at the heart of our business and this was a huge concern for those who experienced crop failure after drilling Ritz. We have actively sought to address this matter on behalf of our growers. I am pleased to say that all those who contacted Frontier regarding Ritz have now had this matter resolved to their satisfaction."