13 November 1998

Business know-how is key to prosperity

By Allan Wright

A HUGE lack of efficient business management among farmers must be tackled by training at least half of them properly within the next five years, according to Peter Cook from the SACs farm and rural business unit.

"It has never been more important for the individual farmer to take a long hard look at his business and decide on the best strategy for the future," said Mr Cook during the launch of Business Select, a new college advisory package.

Mr Cook will head a team offering a menu of advisory choices on the business front.

As well as farm budgeting and efficient cost control, it will provide advice on personal finance, diversification and suggest innovative ways to expand or restructure the farm business.

Meanwhile, calls for a well-organised, multi-skilled and mobile rural labour force were made by Ian Wilson, president of SAOS, the umbrella organisation for farm co-ops in Scotland. He said that it was badly needed as part of farmings survival kit.

The outfit is working hard with its members, including machinery rings, to implement the concept. Mr Wilson added that the government had acknowledged the urgency of the project.

"A professionally-managed mobile workforce will ensure that farmers can cope when they can no longer afford full-time employees," he told the SAOS annual meeting in Crieff on Monday.

"For some, survival will mean farming in joint ventures with neighbours and friends to pool resources of land, capital, and other assets to form a more viable business. We also need to develop really large groupings of farmers with significant market share to negotiate supply and price."

But he warned that excessive world food supplies would mean such groups would not be able to dictatye prices. &#42