Closer co-operation needed between farmers, processors and retailers More scope to develop English regional brands Fresh initiatives to develop English regional brands of beef have been called for by Kevin Hawkins, Safeway's director of communications. Speaking at a pre-Beef 2002 conference, he said surveys had shown Scots and Welsh consumers had a much higher loyalty to beef and lamb from their own regions. "There is clearly scope to develop English regional brands but it won't happen overnight," he said. "It needs closer co-operation between farmers, processors and retailers with long-term contracts, shorter supply chains and more specialist production." Norman Bagley, policy director of the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, which represents small and medium sized abattoirs, warned producers that while there were premiums to be had in the marketplace, they had to be earned. He questioned the value of so many assurance schemes. Good schemes should be maintained but he was worried by the little red tractor scheme which he said seemed more like a vehicle for "inflated egos" than anything to do with real value. David Gunner, md of Waitrose supplier Dovecote Park Abattoir in Yorkshire, said there were clear signs of growing segmentation in the beef market. But this move away from commodity production also brought with it a struggle to compete on price. The industry had to concentrate on areas where there was a clear advantage, such as breed specific, organic or heritage systems. A call for lifetime contracts between producers and processors was made by Richard Phelps, md of Southern Counties Fresh Foods. This should be backed by benchmarking and continuous improvement at production level, he said. {{MEAT }}