EMR cuts short marketing deal in favour of its own 'breeding club'

East Malling Research (EMR) has cut short its agreement with marketing company Meiosis in order to trial its new varieties itself through its own Strawberry Breeding Club.

The Kent-based research centre hopes the club will bring in more financial returns than its current arrangement by establishing links with members of the soft fruit industry across the globe. It aims to find 10 shareholders from the UK and overseas that will each invest some £15,000 in the programme.

Chief executive officer Dr Colin Gutteridge said: "It is hoped the new club will give us access to excellent distribution networks at an early stage in variety development and quicker routes to market internationally, as members can arrange and select from early trials established under their country's specific growing conditions. We are looking for support from all sorts of organisations - from retailers to propagators in a big nursery."

The move ends EMR's contract with Meiosis, also based in East Malling, two years early. Meiosis has trialled and introduced EMR's strawberry varieties to the commerical market for 18 years.

EMR hopes that setting up its own club will help it gain an extra chunk of funding from Defra.

Gutteridge added: "(More) strategic funding from Defra is necessary to underpin the development of the national programme, but in the long term we aim to make it self-financing. In the past, Defra has covered 70 per cent of our costs but in 2009 it will cover 50 per cent, and eventually nothing.

"So we need more money from the industry. We want to widen the geographical perspective in order to bring in more funds.

"Meiosis will continue to hold the commericalisation rights to our legacy varieties and we will continue to work with them to maximise uptake of EMR varieties by the European strawberry industry."

Meiosis explained to Grower it operated by spending half of the funds it raised through its contacts in the soft fruit industry on trialling EMR's new varieties. It said the other half - some £90,000 a year - was spent on paying EMR for the rights to carry out the trials.

Meiosis said it was disappointed by the decision but not surprised. The company's funders chairman Dr Paul Walpole said in a statement: "This brings to an end 18 years of successful collaboration between Meiosis and EMR and we hope to have the opportunity to continue to work with EMR under the new arrangements."

A representative added: "Defra wants joined-up proposals like LINK projects so (EMR) thinks it can get more money if it does it this way."

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