12 May 1995

FFB smoothing the path towards export markets

Last year UK arable farmers supported Food From Britain to the tune of £800,000. What does it do, and what do growers get for their money? Robert Harris reports

AFTER the recent shake up of Food From Britain, many farmers are unaware the organisation still exists – let alone the fact that arable growers provide funding through the Home-Grown Cereals Authority to promote cereal-derived products both at home and overseas.

When it was formed 12 years ago FFBs brief included projects that were close to the farm gate. Co-op developments, machinery ring promotion, quality assurance schemes and grant administration were as important as retail and export promotion.

After a government review, it now focuses on promoting added-value goods. Home development of regional products accounts for 20% of the £9m spend, but the rest is used to push home-produced food abroad.

"We are no longer directly linked to farmers," says chief executive Patrick Davis. "Our main aim now is to promote exports of British food and drink. We introduce companies into the market and stay with them during their development."

FFBs network of offices across the UKs key export markets enables it to offer a range of services to manufacturers, including market studies, distributor and buyer contacts, advice on pack design, effective advertising, in-store promotions and legal advice. "We have an in-depth knowledge of these markets. Firms can make use of that rather than experimenting, which can be time consuming and expensive," says Mr Davis.

Despite the shift, cereal farmers still fund the organisation to increase demand for home-grown cereals. Both government and industry money is used, £5m and £4m, respectively. Of that, £800,000 comes directly from farmers pockets via the HGCA, equivalent to 5p of the 30p/t levy.

But Mr Davis reckons farmers get good value. "Cereal products like breakfast cereals, bread, sandwiches, biscuits and pizzas represent 25% of our clients business. That is £22m worth of products, all made from British cereals." It also attracts other investment, as it is always matched by at least as much from government, manufacturer and retailer.

Each project is closely monitored by the HGCAs FFB committee. Committee member John Alston reckons it is cash well spent. Makers would still try to establish foreign markets without it, but they might find it more tricky, he believes. "It quickens the job."