Farmers and farmer-owned co-operatives need to conduct their own marketing activity to the consumer. This will help to inform consumers about how their food is produced and where it has come from in order to protect our local food heritage. Global trade of cheap anonymous food is not good for farmers, consumers or the environment. The majority of farmers are small businesses and do not have the marketing resources (time or money) of large companies to conduct national activity on their own. That’s why collaborative projects such as Farmers’ Markets and British Food Fortnight have been so successful. In addition, farmers are up against powerful established players such as the multinational food processors and supermarkets when they develop their own brands.
For the last 50 years, marketing activity for farmers has been handled by state run quangos. Farmers have been required to pay money to these levy bodies by law. Yet they have not had a direct say in what is developed on their behalf, or seen any direct financial return to their business from the activity. This means that farmers have not been connected to the consumer-driven marketplace. Any efforts to produce higher quality produce based on animal welfare or environmental benefits have not been rewarded by the marketplace by the levy bodies. For example, under EU State Aid rules, the Meat and livestock Commission (MLC) is not allowed to promote the higher quality attributes of British beef vs cheap foriegn imports of lower production standards to British consumers. This means that marketing activity paid for by British farmers only encourages consumers to eat ‘beef’ and increases sales of cheap foreign imports at the same time. So British farmers marketing activity is pormoting cheap foreign imports and damagaing the environment.Like any other industry sector, farmers need their own marketing activity so that they can promote the quality attributes of their produce (e.g. higher animal welfare standards) to the consumer. This will help to communicate the benefits of eating food produced to higher animal welfare or environmental standards. This will help to increase sales of higher quality produce and develop a healthier food culture.
Farmers should not be prevented from doing this by the Government and its appointed institutions. We are working to help change this. We are not a campaigning or lobbying group, but we will shout out about issues that are preventing farmers from becoming market focused. To this end, the National Beef Association (NBA) and Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) commissioned a report to highlight the issues facing farmers in the marketplace. This report, called Farming Industry Marketing Strategy can be found on this website under the section What We Do/Reports.The market issues facing farmers are not just a UK problem. All over the world, traditional family farmers are being forced off the land to make way for large conglomerates involved in global sourcing. This is leading to global corporate control of our food supply. Therefore, if we can help to find the right market solutions in this country, we hope that these can then be rolled out globally so that more farmers can have a fair and equitable trading relationship in the market.For example, a tightening of the supermarket code of practise in the UK would do more to help farmers in developing countries than any Fairtrade brand.