AHDB questions use of levy funds

Grower representatives are split over whether or not levy funds should be spent on benchmarking schemes and industry-wide branding exercises.

The Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is consulting growers on their views about the scope and financing of quality schemes as well as branding across the sector. If levy money is to be invested in branding, the board is asking whether it should create a new scheme or adopt the Red Tractor logo as it is now.

British Independent Fruit Growers Association (BIFGA) chairman John Breach has told Grower that its members have been opposed to accreditation schemes from the start. He said: "BIFGA held meetings last year regarding assured produce schemes and there was a strong feeling from the majority of members that people didn't want HDC money being spent on marketing when it should be for research.

"I doubt our members would be in favour of funding such a scheme with levy money - people are already unhappy with the new levy set-up and funding allocations so this might just anger them further."

He added: "We have never supported the Red Tractor logo - it's all just an extra cost. If we really need a national brand despite the move towards regional produce, surely the best option is the Union Jack."

NFU horticulture board chairman Richard Hirst believes that the Red Tractor logo should continue to act as quality assurance for British produce. "There are great opportunities in having a recognised brand and one hopes the Red Tractor will remain. It's a symbol of assurance and the Union Jack colours show where the product has come from.

"The Red Tractor has always been done on a limited budget - if that runs out it would be a terrible shame. If it comes to the board spending money to develop that brand it will be money well spent."

Processed Vegetable Growers Association (PVGA) commercial manager Tim Mudge believes the consultation could be an opportunity to strengthen the Red Tractor logo. He said: "The logo already appears across the various farming sectors, so this could be a chance to strengthen its position. A lot of confusing messages are placed on packaging, and research is showing the consumer does not take this in."


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