The ATMAC European Study Tour’s final day began before sunrise, with the group visiting London’s New Covent Garden Markets.

The group arrived at the markets at 4.30am at the tail end of the night’s trading, which starts at 9pm and runs until dawn. The majority of New Covent Garden Market’s buyers are from the London foodservice sector, which means produce on offer leans towards the premium end, the group heard from Gary Marshall, owner of Bevington Salads and Chairman of the Covent Garden Tenants Association.

After visiting a new Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s supermarkets, the group visited the head office of Fruitnet Media International, publishers of global fresh produce industry magazines and co-organisers/partners of events such as Fruit Logistica in Berlin and Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong.

Tour attendees heard from Fred Searle, editor of Fresh Produce Journal, about supply dynamics into the UK market and consumer trends. We also got an overview of certification systems from food industry consultant and former Vice-Chairman of GlobalGAP Jim Jefcoate. Jim spoke about the history of food certification systems in the UK and challenge of a ‘tick box’ culture within the certification industry.

Our final visit was with Red Tractor, a food chain assurance scheme that has become the industry standard in the UK. Red Tractor is benchmarked against GlobalGAP, meaning the 46,000 farms with Red Tractor certification can tack on GlobalGAP certification. The Red Tractor team explained the benefits of having a domestic certification scheme that can account for local issues, while also giving growers access to international markets.

The group enjoyed a late lunch at London’s Borough Market, before heading to the airport, wrapping up an incredible and intensive two weeks.