Farmers’ representatives that attended last Friday’s (14 Oct) beef summit at DEFRA headquarters have applauded the agreement reached on working towards a sustainable future for the beef industry.

In a joint statement, the 19 bodies represented (including the NFU, NBA, CLA, TFA, MLC and the major retailers and processors) said: “We had a useful and constructive meeting.

All parties recognise that the beef sector, particularly at farm level, faces considerable challenges as it comes to grips with CAP reform and the move away from production-based subsidies.”

General agreement was reached on several points, especially the need to improve efficiency in all stages of the food chain, not just at the producers’ end.

The group was also unanimous in the belief that the industry’s best chance for return to fortunes was to better differentiate UK produced beef.

It was agreed that this would be best achieved through the promotion of local and regional food projects.

However, the importance of a profitable export market was also recognised.

To help bring about this change junior DEFRA minister Lord Bach announced a support package worth 8m for English beef with the funds being split three ways.

Most, about 5.5m, will go on the Beef Restoration Programme, a plan to help aid market recovery once the over 30-month rule is lifted and restrictions on the export of British beef are lifted.

About 1.5m will be allocated to the Red Meat Industry Forum for two years to match industry funding allowing the forum to make the transition to being a fully industry owned body.

The remainder will be spent on “Beef Better Returns”.

Designed to promote profit maximisation in the beef industry, the three-year scheme will be run by EBLEX and start in the autumn of 2006.

For more on marketing British beef, turn to page 27.

andrew.watts@rbi.co.uk