31 March 2000
Industry lukewarm on NFU kitemark

By FWi staff

FARMERS and the industry have given a lukewarm reception to the launch of the kitemark designed to boost sales of British farm produce.

The logo, developed by the National Farmers Union and unveiled by Tony Blair at the Downing Street summit, will be on food in the shops by May.

It will be backed by the major supermarket chains and has won the support of Assured British Meat, which oversees many farm assurance schemes.

But farmers and FWi users have reacted with incredulity and surprise that an F-shaped tractor logo is the symbol chosen to represent Britains farmers.

Hill farmers and livestock producers, who have been particularly hard hit by the farming crisis, were especially sceptical when they saw the logo.

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 the tractor on the kitemark 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.”

Many FWi users said they were unconvinced that a tractor was the best choice of symbol or that it will boost sales of high-quality British food.

An e-mail from Phil Eades said: “It would look better on the packaging for a childs toy. It is unimaginative and the F achieves nothing.”

A response from CJ Leamon said: “Very poor. The tractor gives the idea of a mechanical world. We need to show humans are in control.”

Stephen Picken voiced concern that overseas producers could apply to use the logo if their produce reaches British standards.

“The first time that this happens will once again cause the consumer to be misled,” he said in an e-mail.

“This falls very short of the promised logo that would put an end to misleading the consumers.”

The NFU said the logo was professionally designed to produce an image that consumers could recognise at all sizes and in all packaging environments.

A tractor was developed by laying the letter “F” for farm on its back and the colours red, white and blue were used to denote Britishness, added the union.

Research showed consumers associated the tractor logo with farming, said the NFU. It is an image that sticks in the mind when people think of agriculture.

The kitemark will be protected by trademark. Its use on packaging will be controlled through a system of licences from the British Farm Standard Council.