£3 million Objective One boost to Cornish food and drink producers
More than 400 food and drink producers are set to benefit from a £3 million Objective One funded project which aims to put 100 Cornish products on shop shelves in the next three years.
Run by speciality food group Taste of the West, the project will promote the quality and diversity of Cornish food and drink through a wide-ranging programme which will include grant support, marketing advice and research, new promotional material and a dedicated ‘Cornish Shopping Mall’ website.
Costing just over £3 million, the project has secured £1 million from Objective One, which has been matched by the Department of Food and Rural Affairs, with the balance coming from the private sector.
The project will assist 210 businesses with preliminary technical or business advice; help an additional 210 businesses increase their use of Cornish produce and provide 125 businesses with capital grants.
Part of the project will be a trade development programme to create sales opportunities for Cornish food and drink businesses and help them become more competitive.
This will be achieved through ‘meet the buyer’ events, group attendance of major food shows in Cornwall and nationally, direct marketing, e-commerce, the development of a marketing intelligence service, encouraging co-operative marketing and the compilation of buyer directories and consumer leaflets.
To help food and drink producers break into new markets, the project will run a marketing grant scheme, which will provide cash support to help local businesses develop new products and promote themselves.
Project manager, Graham Woolcock, said the marketplace for small specialist regional food producers had been made increasingly difficult by the growth of out-of-town supermarkets.
And in a week which has seen a new survey reveal that average farm incomes dropped to just £2,500 last year, plus the ongoing impact in the wake of the foot and mouth crisis, food producers need all the help they can get.
Mr Woolcock said:
"This scheme is required because, with the present economic conditions resulting in slim or negative profit margins, farmers are unable to finance upgrading their operations and technical expertise from normal funds."
This Objective One money will benefit local primary producers, add to the general level of economic activity, and add to Cornish distinctiveness by making food available to both locals and tourists.
Over the next three years, it is hoped the funding will put a hundred new products on the shop shelves, improving Cornwall’s visibility on the wider food market.
Mr Woolcock said:
"Cornwall already has an excellent reputation as a food producer and farming area. The county is already known for dairy products and specialist foods, such as biscuits and wine, but now we want to broaden the range and appeal. This is where technical expertise is necessary."
In addition to encouraging Cornwall’s agriculture industry to diversify by developing and selling its produce, the money will also contribute to the post of Food Sector Development Adviser – a pivotal role for encouraging local sourcing within the county.
Cornwall’s Food Sector Development Adviser is Amanda Fielder. Her task is to act as a matchmaker, putting food producers and potential purchasers – be they hotels, supermarkets or local authorities – in touch with one another.
She is currently endeavouring to bring Cornish schools into her list of buyers.
"Food producers, consumers and suppliers in Cornwall all need to work together to make sure all of them are benefiting the local economy. This is where I fit in. Farmers have enough work on their hands with day to day farm administration without having to cope with distribution problems. Without the European funding, they would have all been left without a vital link in the chain."
The advice to farmers and food producers will be supplied through Business Link Devon and Cornwall, which is run by PROSPER. The service will manage the scheme along with the Rural Diversification Capital Grant Initiative. On top of this responsibility, PROSPER is delivering the Farm Business Advice Service and two other proposed projects to aid the industry.
Objective One Partnership Office
Truro TR1 2UD