26 July 2002

EBLEX responsible for English meat promotion

By James Garner

A NEW body to represent English levy payers will be formed this autumn, says the Meat and Livestock Commission.

Reporting on the organisations consultation process following political devolution of Wales and Scotland, Gwyn Howells, director general, told a press briefing in London last week that the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX) would almost certainly come into force this October.

EBLEX, which will represent English beef and sheep farmers, will be responsible for English meat promotion and will command a budget of over £18m. This will leave Scots levy payers raising £3.7m for Quality Meat Scotland, and Welsh livestock farmers £2.6m for Antur Cig Cymru.

Negotiations are ongoing, although all the main proposals of the MLCs reforms have met with industry support, meaning the organisation will become an umbrella body overseeing the strategic interests of British meat.

It will provide core services to both QMS and ACC on a contract basis, but what these will be and how much they will cost has yet to be decided.

Mr Howells added that once the negotiations had finished the extent of the MLCs operation would be known. Depending on its size, a decision would then be taken about whether the MLC would relocate headquarters within Milton Keynes.

The future of the British Pig Executives proposed successor, to be named EPEX, was in doubt, after the executive said that it was happy to continue to work across borders.

"BPEX is already running and there is a view that it should remain a national organisation," said Mr Howells. "It gets 8% of its contribution from Scotland, so from a business point of view there is no sense in fragmenting that." Discussions with the Scots are ongoing, he added.

Although EBLEX has been given the nod, it would not be formed as a separate legal entity, said Mr Howells. The majority of replies had supported this option, rather than it being formed as a company limited by guarantee.

"BPEX has not changed its legal status. It has operated for three years and has not suffered a lack of autonomy. Now it wants to stay within the MLC," he added.

Mr Howells said that respondents did express concerns that the Scottish and Welsh agencies QMS and ACC would "cherry-pick" core services from the MLC, leaving the English levy payer to pick up the tab for the rest.

However, the meat industry in particular was keen that the British Meat logo be retained to cover those animals that didnt qualify for national branding schemes, such as Scotch beef and Welsh lamb.

"After many years hard work with the brand there is no point chucking the baby out with the bath water," Mr Howells said.

"From a marketing perspective it was very clear that there should be proper segmentation rather than fragmentation. Segmentation does provide excitement and interest for consumers, but you still have to sell the benefits," he added. &#42

Gwyn Howells: Industry wants the British Meat logo to stay.