Farmers need to identify and respond to changes in consumer preferences if they are to remain competitive within an enlarged EU, the University of Reading’s John Marsh told delegates at this week’s BCPC conference.

Uncertainty over the long term future of direct payments and the human health and environmental impacts of agriculture also mean producers need to focus on delivering what customers want, he said.

“Competition is increasingly important – it ends up with what pleases the customer, namely price, quality and consistent, reliable supply.

Customers are now also looking for other selling points such as welfare friendly and local food.”

He believes many “new entrant” countries will learn from UK experiences and benefit from lower wage costs, as well as financial support.

To remain competitive farmers need to use resources more efficiently, increase scale, target market segments more effectively and build up the image and identity of products.