FARMERS must cooperate better, market their products better, develop brands, invest in added-value products and educate the public about the high standards of food produced in Britain.

These are just some of the challenges British farmers must meet in the future in order to persuade British consumers to buy British food.

And that‘s the case even if the price may be higher than for imported products, according to a discussion panel at the Smithfield Show.

“We are never going to be a low-cost economy,” said Barbara Young, Environment Agency chief executive.

“We must therefore get the British consumer to want to pay more for food produced in Britain.

“One way is to look at added-value products and invest in what makes British food distinctive,” said Baroness Young. 

The Baroness gave her support to the Little Red Tractor labelling scheme, saying that it shouldn‘t be given up now since many people do recognise the label.

But she pointed out that there is scope for making the scheme better.

Helen Browning, food and farming director at the Soil Association said: “We as farmers must collaborate and be the best.

“We can‘t rely on people buying British for patriotic reasons. We must work together to ensure we have excellent marketing and labelling of our products,” said Ms Browning.

She also argued that British farmers need to develop alternative market routes and not rely exclusively on sales in supermarkets.

Guy Smith NFU council member and Essex-based farmer reckoned: “It‘s in the interest of supermarkets to buy produce as cheaply as possible, wherever it comes from, so it‘s not sensible to rely on the supermarkets to promote British food.

“We must therefore inject more money into promoting British food,” Mr Smith said.

He added that the public should be told that British farmers produce healthy, wholesome food, have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and an excellent environmental track record.

A further challenge was outlined by a member of the audience.

LEAF demonstration farmer, said that education was the key to make the British public understand properly why paying more for British food might be a good idea.

He said more farmers should open their farms to school visits while local councils should be more supportive of such activities.