Avara Foods (Avara), one of the UK’s largest food businesses, has signed a new contract pledging to ensure that no poultry litter produced by Avara’s farms in the River Wye catchment area will be sold for use as fertiliser, with the majority being removed outside.

The contract – with Gamber Poultry Litter Limited (Gamber PLL) – marks the first major step in Avara’s proposed Roadmap to ensure their supply chain contributes no excess phosphates to the Wye catchment area by 2025.

the firm says that any poultry manure which is not required elsewhere on the producing farm’s estate will be sold to Gamber PLL and redistributed to other parts of the UK where it cannot be used in a way that will contribute to excess nitrogen or phosphate levels. This will ensure it cannot contribute to excess phosphate levels in the Wye. All farmers will be paid the current commercial rate for litter purchased.

While Avara says it is not a direct polluter of the Wye, it adds that it recognises and acknowledges the potential impact of excess phosphates present in poultry litter on the health of the river.

This recognition has translated into action with the creation of Avara’s Roadmap to eliminating the contribution of excess phosphates in the Wye catchment area from its supply chain, it says – of which the signing of the agreement with Gamber is the first landmark moment.

Avara also claims it is the only company with a robust, published plan to date to mitigate its impact, which is built on ‘robust and detailed data’. “This is crucial as it shows Avara has successfully reduced the amount of phosphorus in its feed by 32% since 2016, without compromising the nutritional value or bird welfare,” says a spokesperson.

“The agreement means farmers within Avara’s supply chain can continue to use their own manure on their arable land if this use is properly managed. The 30 farms that retain manure for this purpose are piloting new soil and nutrient assurance standards, developed by Red Tractor.

“By signing this agreement with Gamber, Avara has demonstrated recognition of their responsibility to reducing the impact of its processes on the natural environments in which it operates – in particular, the precious Wye catchment area. As a good corporate citizen, Avara is committed to ensuring that their supply chain is not contributing to the decline of the River Wye.”

Andy Dawkins, CEO of Avara, said: ““While Avara Foods is not a direct polluter, and our direct control over phosphate flows is limited, one area of influence is to limit supply into the local fertiliser market. Our contract with Gamber helps us achieve this, but its success will be determined by the way demand is satisfied.

“Under this new agreement with Gamber Poultry Litter ltd, together with our farmers, we will ensure that from January 2024, our manure cannot be bought as a fertiliser within the catchment area. However, our efforts can only change aspects of the problem that are within our control. To truly reduce phosphate pollution within the Wye catchment and beyond, a coalition of responsible businesses and agri-companies need to come together to ensure the problem is tackled holistically – that includes changes to the way the land is farmed. It is only by everyone doing their part that we can collectively protect our rivers and communities.”

Patrick Lewis, Managing Director, Gamber, said: “We are pleased to play an important role delivering actions that can help improve the health of a national treasure. While this is a significant step, it is only one small piece of a much larger puzzle, and we need to see similar action elsewhere. We hope that Avara’s actions set a strong precedent for others in the catchment to act, and that we see long-term sustainable solutions in place, that tackle the wide range of root causes.”