31 March 2000

British farm kitemark is

unveiled at PM summit

By FWreporters

TONY BLAIR used his Downing Street summit with farmers leaders to launch a new £2m kitemark to promote British farm produce yesterday (Mar 30). The long-awaited logo will be on food in shops in May, said the Prime Minister.

The kitemark (shown above) was developed by the NFU in a bid to clearly identify a range of farm-assured produce, including meat, fruit and vegetables.

Ben Gill, NFU president, said the logo would also guarantee that food is produced to exacting environmental and animal welfare standards. "When this distinctive mark appears in the shops in just under two months time, we believe it will provide that crucial signpost," he added. "It will be the farmers promise to consumers that they are buying the best."

The logo was welcomed by Assured British Meat, the umbrella body which oversees many farm assurance schemes. But many members of the farming industry said they were unconvinced that the kitemark would be a success with shoppers. Hill farmers and livestock producers, who have been particularly hard hit by the farming crisis, were especially sceptical.

NSAsurprise

John Thorley, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, said: "We are surprised that this is to become the symbol for the entire agricultural industry when tractors have little to do with rolling hills and natural produce."

Hugh Crabtree, campaign coordinator for the National Pig Association, said: "Trying to get a brand mark into awareness is not a cheap thing. Weve spent £8m on our pig mark in the last two years and thats only just getting established with consumers."

Mr Crabtree said the tractor looked like it was made from Lego. He added: "Wed be reluctant to give up our mark unless the NFU can guarantee it will maintain the same standards across all sectors. Our major concern is that there is a risk that if another products quality is inferior it could sink the whole ship."

The logo also met a mixed reaction from shoppers outside the FARMERS WEEKLY offices in Sutton, Surrey. Jeff Brennon, a pensioner, said: "I come from a rural area originally but honestly it wouldnt make me want to buy British food. What impact does a tractor have on people who may never have seen one?"

No encouragement

Darren Lucas, a sixth-form student, said the logo made him think of a farm but would not encourage him to buy British food. But Jackie Riley, a house-wife in her early-30s, said she always bought British although she was unsure what was meant by the phrase "British Farm Standard."

Some consumers preferred a rival British logo developed by GB Choice. It shows a Union Jack in the shape of a tick and the words "100% GB". Julia Chettati, who was shopping in Sutton for shoes, was shown the GB Choice logo. She said: "As a symbol of the flag it is very reassuring. It gives you a tick and a tick always means yes."

Other decisions announced at the Downing Street summit were unknown as FARMERS WEEKLY went to press. But full coverage and analysis of the summit, including news, views and reaction, is available now on our award-winning web-site at www.fwi.co.uk