23 November 2001

Blueprint for Wales puts the emphasis on quality

By Robert Davies Wales correspondent

THE Welsh Assemblys vision for the future of farming says producers must compete on quality rather than price to stay in business.

The Farming for the Future blueprint insists there is no alternative for an industry that was in long-term decline even before foot-and-mouth.

Farmers must choose between competing on price in the market for basic agricultural commodities or collaborating with others to add value, the document says.

It calls for a more integrated Welsh agri-food industry, with farmers and food processors working together to deliver food products for which consumers will pay premium prices.

But environmental and food safety considerations must be integral parts of animal and land management, the document adds.

Agricultural production needs to be very efficient and, where possible, combined with other income generating, non-farming options like tourism, it says.

The blueprint pledges the National Assemblys commitment to create conditions that will help the industry adapt and raise the incomes of farming families. This includes securing the right trading and subsidy framework, providing advice through the Farming Connect network and taking a fresh look at planning rules.

The Farmers Union of Wales said the document represented only the first step on the road to recovery for the battered Welsh industry.

"We fully support the principle of co-operation and adding value to primary products, and to diversification, but the necessary funding must be made available," said spokesman Alan Morris. &#42