Riviera Produce

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Riviera Produce's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Riviera Produce is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Owner and Managing Director
David Simmons
Riviera Produce, Connor
Downs, Cornwall
Riviera Produce Ltd began as a family farm in the 19th
century, taking advantage of the maritime climate of
Cornwall to grow cauliflower and other vegetables. Since
then, they have expanded to supply a variety of major domestic
supermarkets, including Morrisons, Aldi, Co-op and Asda.
Managing Director David Simmons is the fifth generation of his
family to work in the business and discusses the need to expand
the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme and the need to
develop robotic harvesting techniques.
PE Simmons and Son have been farming in Cornwall since 1870. At this time, the
farm only consisted of 90 acres, and it has steadily expanded over its illustrious
history. Cauliflower was first grown on the farm in the 1930s, alongside carrots,
spring greens, potatoes and swedes. Following the Second World War, my father
returned from school and continued this expansion, growing the farm to 160 acres
by 1982, having established a good reputation for providing quality vegetables.
Since then, the farm has grown exponentially to its current size of 6,000 acres. We
began to supply supermarkets in the late 1980s and began to work with Safeway
in 1994, providing cauliflowers and spring greens. This led to the creation of
Trewellard Farm Marketing Ltd. Using Safeway’s infrastructure, we expanded our
range. As Safeway was acquired by Morrisons, we also evolved to become Riviera
Produce Ltd. We now supply supermarkets year round and all over the country,
including Asda, Aldi, Morrisons, Co-op and Iceland.
We currently produce over 60 million brassica plants, roughly one head for each
person in the UK, over 6,000 acres from Land’s End to Padstow. We have also
»Owner and Managing
Director: David Simmons
»Established in 1870, with the
company registered in 1999
»Based in Connor Downs,
»Services: Food production
»No. of employees: 250-450,
depending on the season
Riviera Produce
Highlighting best practice
expanded our growing base with the
help of six local growers, supplying
us from Penzance to Newquay. Our
grower base supplies an additional
1,500 acres of Cornish produce.
In 2013, my son became the sixth
generation of our family to work
The advantage of a maritime
Cauliflower is very susceptible to
frosty weather, so Cornwall’s maritime
climate serves as the perfect setting to
grow our produce. Before our rapid
expansion in the 1990s, the majority
of winter cauliflower was imported
from Spain and France, but we have
replaced those imports.
Our expansion has all been market
led, beginning with Safeway and
growing as other supermarkets have
approached us. Our reputation has
been central to our development.
We have never advertised, and we
only tend to deal with the major
supermarkets. Although ideal for
growing conditions, Cornwall is quite
a distance away from our marketplace.
We work alongside a local transport
company who provide a nationwide
service, including Scotland, throughout
the winter months. We do use other
haulage firms, but the majority of our
deliveries are completed by local firms.
We have worked with a lot of local
producers, with 40 local growers
supplying us at any one time. As
margins have decreased and prices
have become increasingly squeezed,
they have been forced out of the
market. We have changed our
relationships and now they rent their
land to us and come to work for us
as contractors. This allows them to
remain financially viable. Our scale
helps us to retain our status as a major
supplier, and we employ economies of
scale to give competitive prices to the
supermarkets we supply.
Adapting to labour shortages
We do not export, and most of our
customers are UK based. We do
import a small amount of broccoli and
cabbages in the winter months, which
may be affected by Brexit. The greatest
challenge we face from Britain’s exit
from the EU is labour. We employ
a large number of staff, with some
High-quality British
produce shipped around
the country
Our expansion
has all been
working seasonally but many full time,
and around 95 per cent are Eastern
European. If we lose that labour source
because of the ensuing difficulties of
ending free movement, our business
could be severely affected to the point
that we may have to cease operations.
Very few local people want to harvest
our crops, so we are totally reliant on
these foreign staff. For this reason,
Brexit is a huge worry for us.
The Seasonal Agricultural Workers
Scheme is designed to alleviate this.
The scheme will allow us to take
on staff on a temporary basis, but
currently the scheme only provides
2,500 available workers nationwide.
This is just the tip of the iceberg
of what is needed. We need large
numbers of people to work for us, and
this pool needs to expand hugely, in
terms of both the number of workers
and the time they are allowed to work.
Currently, they are only permitted to
stay for six months, often meaning
they have to return just as they have
developed the skills to perform their
roles efficiently. Although many people
view this type of work as low skill, this
is certainly not the case. It is essential
to be able to work quickly and
efficiently to the high standards that
supermarkets require, and staff must
be highly trained to achieve this.
Expanding into robotic
Looking further ahead, climate change
presents a long-term issue for us. If the
weather is seriously affected, this could
damage our ability to grow our crops,
and any change in the local climate
could remove the advantage that
Cornwall has in this area. As we work
closely with supermarkets, any pressure
that they are under is passed down to
us. The cheap prices that the customer
wants have a knock-on impact on us,
and if supermarkets suffer from Brexit,
this problem will only worsen.
On a more positive note, the recent
trend towards healthy eating,
especially veganism and vegetarianism,
has provided a boost for us. As we
produce nutritious products with
tremendous health benefits, we are
in a prime position to replace imports
if trade difficulties arise after our exit
from the EU.
Looking to the future, we are looking
to trial robotic harvesting of cauliflower
and broccoli: a potential solution to
the labour shortages we are likely to
experience. This technology is still a
few years away, however, primarily
because of the limited market reducing
the amount of investment. As we are
quite a specialist business, robotics
companies are loathe to invest large
sums. Despite this, we are confident
that we can continue to develop and
have invested heavily in cold storage
and additional packing facilities over
the last three years. By continuing to
champion Cornwall produce, we are
confident that we can continue the
work started almost 150 years ago.
As we
products with
benefits, we
are in a prime
position to
imports if
Fields overlooking
Marazion, Cornwall


This article was sponsored by Riviera Produce. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster