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Hold on to customers of lockdown, farming sector urged

Neil Shand wants the industry to keep promoting itself to ensure consumers stay engaged with domestic produce.
Neil Shand wants the industry to keep promoting itself to ensure consumers stay engaged with domestic produce.

The farming industry must work to keep the new customers it has gained during the Covid-19 crisis, claims the interim chief executive of the National Beef Association (NBA).

Neil Shand, who previously worked as chief executive at the British Simmental Cattle Society, will lead the NBA following the departure of the association’s former chief executive, Chris Mallon, earlier this year.

“We have a great opportunity in the middle of this crisis,” said Mr Shand.

“The British public have reconnected with beef in the last three to four weeks, and there’s a huge challenge for the industry to keep them there while we have got a hold of them.”

He said the coronavirus pandemic had led to consumers becoming seriously re-engaged with British produce, and industry needed to keep promoting itself to ensure consumers stay engaged with domestic produce.

Responding to concerns about a costly carcase imbalance caused by consumers opting for more mince and sales of high-end cuts collapsing due to the closure of restaurants and cafes, Mr Shand said: “We might be able to eat our way out of the problem, especially with consumer support.”

He said the NBA had lobbied government and levy bodies for more promotion of high-end cuts to help with carcase balance, and said other lobbying efforts would focus on food security.

“The environmental impact of beef production is not as dramatic as everybody was claiming,” said Mr Shand.

“We now need to lobby government to make sure the new agriculture bill is more focused on food security, ahead of environmental issues.”

NBA chairman Andrew Laughton welcomed Mr Shand’s appointment and said he was bringing a new lease of life to the organisation.

He added: “Along with the rest of the board, we are looking forward to a new and effective chapter in the organisation’s history as we work towards Beef Expo.

“The new date for the Expo, postponed from its original date in May, will be announced in due course.”

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