20 April 2001
‘Food production to take second place’

By Tom Allen-Stevens

FOOD production could take second place to looking after the countryside in the wake of the foot-and-mouth crisis, the National Farmers Union has claimed.

But adding value to farm produce is likely to increase in importance, according to NFU vice-president Michael Paske.

“I have no doubt that policy will change dramatically as a result of the horrible crisis foot-and-mouth has brought to agriculture,” he said.

Agricultural policies that have brought about many of the problems facing farmers today and excessive food production are not helping, said Mr Paske.

“In Europe, some foods are so plentiful that farmgate prices have lowered. CAP no longer gives farmers the support it set out to provide.”

Speaking at the Global Conference in Norwich on Thursday (19 April), Mr Paske said the NFU was working on strategies to take the industry forward.

The underlying problem, he said, was that Europe has too much food and too little land. Other weaknesses include too much red tape and high labour costs.

But Europe has significant strengths, said Mr Paske. It has a strong scientific base, high quality standards and wealthy consumers.

“European agricultural policy has played to its weaknesses for far too long,” he said. “Its time we played to its strengths.”

Mr Paske said he believed the route forward for many British farmers involved new trends towards high-quality, value-added products.

Industrial crops, biofuel and biomass also offered unique opportunities for European growers, he told delegates.

“Farmers are also meeting new demands of society, as custodians of the countryside,” said Mr Paske.

Diversifying into niche and local markets are other examples of how farmers are repositioning themselves in the rural community.

But cereals will largely remain bulk, low-value commodities, he said.

  • See the forthcoming issue of Crops magazine on 12 May for Tom Allen-Stevens full report from the Global Conference
  • Click here to visit the Crops web page

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