Avara Foods, has released a progress update on its plan to mitigate the impact of its supply chain on phosphate pollution in the River Wye. Launched in January 2023, the roadmap outlines how Avara will ensure that its supply chain does not contribute to excess phosphate in the Wye Valley Catchment Area (WVCA) by 2025.
The poultry company said that due to the significant progress made in recent months it expects to reach its 2025 goal ahead of schedule. Particularly impactful has been Avara’s agreement with Gamber Poultry Limited to guarantee that no poultry litter produced by Avara’s 104 farms in the WVCA can be sold as fertiliser within it from January 2024. Avara said this was the only way it could ensure the manure from its farms does not contribute indirectly, following sale, to phosphate levels in the Wye.
To support the recovery of the Wye long term, Avara is piloting new soil assurance standards being developed by Red Tractor and with input from a range of experts, including WRAP and the Environment Agency. These stricter standards will independently verify that the few in-catchment farms in Avara’s supply chain which spread poultry litter elsewhere on their estates do so responsibly and without contributing to phosphate pollution. The first audits, conducted by NSF, have already taken place across six farms in the Wye catchment, with more planned in the coming months. However, these farms represent less than 1% of Herefordshire arable sector, so widespread adoption of rigorous soil assurance standards will be required for real progress to be made.
Underpinning these measures is Avara’s data gathering and measurement process, which is being continually refined. By understanding where and at what volume phosphorous enters and then flows through the supply chain, Avara said it would be able to identify both the risks to the River Wye and the opportunities to mitigate them.
The latest data published by Avara states that Avara has reduced the quantity of phosphate in its poultry feed by 37% since 2016.
“It is highly encouraging to see the progress that we have made so far in developing and implementing our Sustainable Poultry Roadmap,” said Andy Dawkins, chief executive, Avara Foods. “That we are ahead of schedule is testament to the great work we have been doing with our farming partners and in collaboration with a range of experts, including Herefordshire Rural Hub, WRAP, and the Wye & Usk Foundation. For all the progress we are making in our supply chain, however, it is clear that, until the wider range of root causes are addressed, particularly robust soil assurance across all farming sectors, the river’s return to health remains in jeopardy.”