9 July 1999

Producers add note of caution

BEEF and sheep producers have mixed feelings about regional and breed branding, with some seeing it as a way to improve the market, while others are concerned about it being divisive and confusing consumers.

Speaking at the show, Jean Black-nell, who has 100 Jacob ewes at Loynton, New-port, said that producers could end up competing against each other. "If were not careful we will cut each others throats."

And too many of these groups will cause divisions, said sheep producer Charles Marwood, who has nearly 500 Charollais ewes and 100 Mashams. "There is room for niche markets but large scale marketing must be simple."

Borders butcher and farmer Norman Kyle of Geltside Farm, Brampton, Cumbria, said these schemes would be good on a local basis but there is little to gain nationally.

"Too much effort is being put into marketing things that are not special," Mr Kyle claimed.

But some Royal show beef producers considered it a good idea to promote beef under any banner, such as Peter Henshall, Sarkshields Farm, Lockerbie, who keeps 110 sucklers and 60 Limousins.

"Any niche market, whether regional or breed marketing, is a good thing as it helps generic promotion by increasing consumer awareness and association."

Others agreed, including John Mawle of Blackmore Farm, Maulden, who has 100 sucklers and 80 Belgian Blues, and said it helped consumers identify with the product. "As long as the promotion is done properly. But if its half-hearted, it could be self-defeating." &#42