By James Garner

ARABLE farmers could lose out on huge non-food crop markets unless they band together and seek out buyers soon.

The warning came from Melvyn Askew, head of the Central Science Laboratorys alternative crops and biotechnology unit in York.

He told this weeks Gearing Up for Change conference, sponsored by NatWest, FARMERS WEEKLY and CSL, that there were big, untapped markets in Europe.

Mr Askew believed sales in non-food crops would grow by 40% a year.

“We need to get together corporately. I would like these markets for us, but we need to think laterally about what we produce,” he said.

But the marketplace was competitive and global, said Mr Askew, and if UK farmers didnt sharpen up then they might not benefit.

“We need scale,” he said. “There is no point going to an end-user without having sufficient supply of a product to meet their needs.”

Groups, such as grain co-ops and sugar beet lifting rings already had size and should start being more proactive in finding markets, he said.