FARMERS ARE starting to realise the benefits of collaboration, the chairman of the National Consumer Council Deirdre Hutton has claimed.

Dame Deirdre, who is also chairman of the Food Chain Centre, said this new, stronger collaborative feeling among farmers was a positive development.

“Collaboration is better than confrontation,” Dame Deirdre told the Family Farmers‘ Association‘s 25th anniversary conference in Reading on Monday (Oct 11).

She told the conference the FCC was working to find ways of improving efficiency and cutting costs in the food supply chain.

It had, in some cases, identified opportunities to cut costs by up to 30%, she said.

The challenge was to make sure that these improvements in efficiency benefited farmers.

Dame Deirdre also said that the FCC was working to find efficient means of informing farmers about trends in customer demand.

It was getting this information having been given access to information from one supermarket‘s loyalty card scheme.

Speaking about CAP reform, Dame Deirdre said the winners would be those farmers who are able to adapt and be responsive to consumer demand.

But she met some resistance when she said that decoupling would free farmers from the burden of having to produce according to subsidy arrangements.

John Thorley, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, said it was a myth that most farmers have produced what would benefit them most in terms of subsidies.

“Most farmers have produced food according to the conditions on the farm and what their land has been capable of yielding, not according to what might bring the most income in terms of subsidies,” Mr Thorley said.