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  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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The UK farming gap – are farmers producing what consumers really buy?

New research from Barclays reveals the top ten factors that would encourage consumers to buy more UK produce, including two thirds (66%) who would do so to support UK farmers. Furthermore, shoppers say they would be willing to pay a 17% premium on average for UK produce over imported equivalents, voting domestic produce as better quality.

However the study, which examines the attitudes ofUK farmers and over 2,000 consumers, warns a gap exists between what many UK farmers are producing in response to perceived consumer preference for premium produce, and what in reality motivates UK consumers to buy.

When it comes to the main drivers influencing overall purchasing decisions, price and convenience are the principle triggers,with two in five (40%) UK adults saying they shop for value over origin,followed by 31% making purchasing decisions based on convenience. This is even more prevalent amongst 18-24 year olds with 46% making purchasing decisions based on value. Furthermore, only a quarter of Brits (24%) always check the label to see where their food comes from.

Comparing these findings with farming strategies for future growth, just 5% of farmers think there is a business opportunity to produce more low value produce, whereas over a quarter (27%) think growth could come from producing more high value produce such as traditional or native breeds of animal and organic ranges.

Mark Suthern, Head ofAgriculture at Barclays commented: Our research shows that while support for UK produce exists, consumers are very cost conscious and when it comes to what drives choice of produce it is principally value and convenience. The findings suggest the market for higher cost or niche produce is small, yet only a small number of farmers identify farm gate produce of lower cost as part of their growth plan. This gap presents an opportunity for a quick and low cost producer mentality needed for future growth and the challenge will be production of quality produce in a price conscious market. With this is mind, perhaps now is the time for the industry to think differently, to ensure that UK farming remains competitive at family firm level and can compete with global players providing cheaper imported produce.

The research went on to ask UK consumers what would most make them buy more UK produce and found differences with views of farmers. Unsurprisingly, cheaper prices came top of the poll (80%) however only 39% of farmers identified price as an influence on consumer purchasing decisions.

Looking beyond price, consumer interest in provenance is strong, with four in five Brits (79%) stating better taste or flavour would make them buy more UK produce, though only a third of farmers (33%) think it would encourage more purchases. In third place for consumers was demonstration of superior quality (70%). A demand for ethical food is also an important factor; influences such as animal welfare considerations (69%) and confidence in food safety (67%) emerge as drivers for buying British produce,however just under two in five farmers (39%) think demonstration of better animal welfare standards would encourage more sales. In addition, 60% of consumers state clearly labelled packaging would help them to purchase more UK produce.

Mark Suthern at Barclays continued: Following the on-going difficulties that UK agriculture has experienced over the last few years, it has never been a more important time to support the growth of a vital sector of the UK economy. The UK has a global reputation for high-quality, high welfare farmed produce at competitive prices, and the evidence shows that UK consumers value the access they have to such domestically produced food, but must look beyond just price and convenience to support the industry. Continued improvements in labelling and traceability can help consumers make the choice in selecting UK produce.

The research used economic analysis to assess the opportunities for UK produce and its value to the UK economy.Demographic changes are expected to grow the market for farmed produce by8.4billion by 2020. Furthermore, based on the 17% price premium that consumers would be prepared to pay for UK produce, there could be an additional4.7billion economic growth prospect, or 13.1billion in total over the next five years.

  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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