24 August 2001

Curry spells out concern

DON Curry, chairman of the governments commission into the future of food and farming, has promised to address the problems facing family farms.

Speaking to FARMERS WEEKLY, Sir Don acknowledged that diversification and niche-marketing – a strategy for survival favoured by the government – is not an option for many producers. The future of the family or medium-sized farm was a key area of concern, he said.

"The majority of British food is not going to be sold through niche markets or initiatives, he said. Local food initiatives, niche marketing and regional branding would be important to some producers, but they were a route that could not be followed by all.

"The role of the family farms or the medium sized business is something that is exercising the minds of lots of people and we certainly need to look at that," he said.

Less forthcoming

Sir Don has been less forthcoming on his vision of the future than Lord Haskins, who is co-ordinating the governments recovery plan for rural areas hit by foot-and-mouth disease. Sir Don he was keeping his thoughts to himself because he did not want members of his commission to be influenced by his views.

But he revealed: "I want to be radical in looking at solutions and I am not going simply to endorse the status quo or current policies.

"We need to do some clear free-thinking and come forward with some firm recommendations. Some of those recommendations will specifically be directed at government, in effect government policy." &#42

and some of those may well have a European aspect to them. Others will be recommendations directly for our industry."

Sir Don admitted that some farmers would inevitably find some of the messages in his final report unpalatable. But he stressed it was important that the industry managed change rather than being dragged along by it. The first official meeting of the commission will take place in early September.