Food and farming businesses in the West Country have been urged not to let provenance opportunities slip through their fingers.

This is the message from Humphrey Richards, area director for Lloyds Bank across Devon, Dorset and Somerset, following the publication of the bank’s annual Food and Drink Research report, which suggests reducing numbers of businesses are seeing the benefits of promoting their product’s geographical point of origin or its unique story.

According to the report, respondents who felt provenance was an opportunity for their business fell from around three-quarters (73 per cent) in 2015 to 44 per cent this year, and those deriving a benefit fell from 88 per cent to 69 per cent.

At the same time, those who saw provenance as a challenge doubled from just over a quarter (27 per cent) in 2015 to more than half (54 per cent) in 2016.

Mr Richards says: “This could be because of uncertainty over the future of our EU ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ and ‘Protected Geographical Indication’ statuses following the referendum, possibly affecting foods such as West Country lamb and beef, and West Country Farmhouse Cheddar.

“Alternatively, food and drink companies could be seeing cost-conscious consumers simply prioritising the price of goods over provenance in their buying decisions.”

Either way, says Mr Richards, the proportion of companies who think English and Welsh produce has a good reputation internationally has held firm at 86 per cent, and this should be a clear signal that there is a future in developing existing and new brands based on regional attributes.

“At a time when our future food and farming policy is being shaped, we believe it’s important we continue to build and promote regional brands - they have long term strategic importance for our region and present opportunities for targeting new markets in the UK and internationally.”