30 October 1998
Economist tells farmers ‘dont panic’

A LEADING agricultural economist has warned farmers not to panic during the current crisis sweeping the farming sector.

John McInerney, professor of agricultural economics at Exeter University, said farmers should respond positively to new opportunities and produce better quality added-value food products rather than commodities.

“The panic and protestations over the survival of Britains agriculture are dangerously overstated and it would be damaging if people started believing that the current situation reflects how things will be from now on.”

Prof McInerney said the fall in farm incomes was a short-term trauma but British agriculture was still inherently strong in technical and economic terms.

He predicted the number of full-time farmers would decline from 170,000 to about 150,000 in the next decade, but added that this was part of a decline which had been taking place over the last 25 years.

Prof McInerney dismissed as “erroneous” the notion that home agriculture need to be supported to guarantee domestic food supply.

Agricultural policy had to change because there was no logic in artificially changing agricultural production which the public was increasingly loathed to financially support.

“A population with no experience of food shortages, that takes sufficiency and predictability for granted, has no reason to feel it has to be especially nice to farmers.”

Prof McInerney highlighted an increasing demand for non-food and services, ranging from crops for industrial uses to recreational use of land.

Farmers had to respond to the non-market demands for an improved environment.

  • The Scotsman 30/10/98 page 34