Producers have reported seeing ‘green shoots’ in AHDB’s attitude to promotion which they say will give the red meat industry the shot in the arm it needs.
Speaking after an industry roundtable convened to assess new and innovative ways of marketing red meat, sector representatives said they were hopeful the sea change would lead to an increase in promotional activities and market development from AHDB, but added the board would be held to account over any promises.
It comes after preliminary results of an AHDB consultation revealed improving promotion was a top priority for levy payers, along with having the tools to manage price volatility.
Phil Stocker, National Sheep Association (NSA) chief executive, said: “From conversations with the NSA English committee right through to the AHDB activity review meetings held early in the year, the message from the industry has been consistent and we feel AHDB has listened and softened its stance in terms of the need for marketing and promotion.
“We would very much hope Peter Kendall, as AHDB chairman, would support that change of direction and listen to farmers’ needs.”
Mr Kendall has in the past been criticised for his ‘anti-promotion’ stance. In an interview with Farmers Guardian last year, he said while he was not against promotion, it was ‘criminal’ to think it could solve the industry’s ills.
The issue came to a head in summer when AHDB failed to push Defra to sign off a major promotional campaign for beef and lamb.
The furore led to the resignation of the AHDB Beef and Lamb chairman Stuart Roberts and Defra was criticised for interfering in AHDB levy spending decisions.
Farmer and Ladies in Beef co-founder Jilly Greed said she was ‘encouraged’ AHDB appeared to have ‘listened to its members’.
“I think they are waking up to the fact it needs to change,” she said. “Farmers are switched on; seeing what other countries are doing, what supermarkets want and what consumers want. They expect a lot more from the levy and want to see that demonstrated in the marketplace.”
NFU chief livestock adviser John Royle added: “With a changing retail market it has never been more important to ensure promotional activity is coordinated and targeted to achieve greater penetration of quality British beef and lamb."
He said by working together, sharing ideas and best practice, targeted promotional activity could deliver a ‘real boost to the sector and ensure consumers have access to Great British beef and lamb’.
He added: “We will continue to lobby others to spend money effectively for the good of the industry.”
AHDB Beef and Lamb chairman Adam Quinney said the board must continue to work with the supply chain to stimulate demand for beef and lamb and make the most of available resources.
He added: “It is now more important than ever all links in the supply chain work closely together to promote beef and lamb."