ADAS call for EU-wide plan may cause government policy shift
By Peter Bullen
ADAS will unveil a controversial policy document at the Royal Show next week calling for a l0-year plan for Europes farming industry.
Its 10-year strategy includes preparing producers for more liberal conditions by modifying supply controls. That includes scrapping quotas but initially allowing unsubsidised exports of excess production on to world markets.
Until now the government has rejected industry demands for a long-term agricultural plan. But as its own advisory service is now calling for one it may have to alter its view, particularly as ADAS is suggesting an EU-wide plan.
At the least it should influence farm minister William Walde-graves common agricultural policy reform "think tank", which is now drafting its final report.
ADAS says the EU faces a stark choice. It either moves closer to world market prices and more liberal trading or it adopts the "fortress Europe" option with ever-rising food prices and ever-tightening supply controls like quotas and set-aside.
It shows how the EU is already falling behind in world trade by graphic comparisons between the US and the EUs projected exports of main commodities.
ADAS also shows the competitive price gap between US and UK farmers. Last year farm gate prices for milk averaged 22.6p/litre in the UK but only 16.8p in the US. Other prices were: Beef 122p/kg liveweight UK, 82p (US); pigmeat 100p/kg deadweight UK, 57p (US); broilers 59p/kg liveweight UK, 47p (US); eggs 56p/dozen UK, 39p (US); wheat £108/t, £83 (US).
But ADAS has some encouragement for UK farmers. It predicts world prices will rise as GATT takes effect. It says top UK farm businesses will be well placed to compete, especially with current currency advantages, which will provide the finance for "judicious investment to prepare for future competitive markets".
To help individual farmers it is launching a new business performance index (BPI) which measures the competitive position of a farming business. *