MORE INVESTMENT and a united effort are required to make promotion of British food and farming efficient, according to Essex farmer and NFU council member Guy Smith.

Mr Smith regards poor communication as one of the main reasons for farming”s decline over the last 30 years. The falling number of farmers, the lack of new entrants and British agriculture”s loss of market share, social standing and self esteem can all be blamed on poor communication, he said.

“In essence, I don”t think the industry has realised how British society has changed in the last 30 years in the way things are perceived, reported and discussed.

“If you look at other industries, political bodies and other groups, you will find that they have all developed sophisticated communication strategies.

“The strategies identify key messages that will benefit them, then identify the key audiences and then spend money getting the messages out. Farming hasn”t done this,” said Mr Smith.

“We remain a disparate, production-focused industry that spends a miniscule fraction of its turnover on communication and promotion,” he told farmers weekly.

He suggested that British agriculture ought to spend 5% of its turnover on promotion and communication and employ the best communication strategists money could buy. He also emphasised the need for all the disparate farming groups to approach this on a united front.

LIMITATIONS

This would overcome limitations of the current situation which he described as “lots of groups and individuals giving out their own under-funded, different and often contrary messages”.

David Handley, chairman of Farmers for Action, agreed that more money should be invested in promotion: “I think we have to look at an investment programme and then employ the likes of Saatchi and Saatchi. You need people of that calibre. Not a producer in the country would say no to contributing, say, 0.2p/litre to achieve that. This is something we need to drive forward,” Mr Handley said.