26 November 2000
Gill warns of ‘brave new world’

By Jonathan Riley

FARMING is about to enter a brave new world where food production will not be the mainstay for many businesses, farmers leader Ben Gill has claimed.

Producers would increasingly have to forsake independence and exploit new markets ruthlessly to survive, said the National Farmers Union president.

“Trying to maintain the existing commodity-based production system will not work,” he told listeners at the Royal Smithfield Show in London.

Mr Gill explained: “The climate is changing and there will be mounting economic pressure on the manufacturing industry to curb carbon outputs.

“To maintain their output, businesses will be forced to plant forests that will absorb the carbon their factories are releasing into the atmosphere.

Mr Gill said carbon-retaining plants could be grown by farmers who could then sell the rights to those carbon-absorbing properties to major companies.

“Within a decade, farmers will be making more money from companies buying these sequestration rights than they will from food production.”

Genetically modified crops yielding industrial benefits would also be a key feature of the future farming industry, Mr Gill predicted.

For those in the livestock industry, Mr Gill said that farmers must be prepared to lose their independence, and that collaboration would be the only way to survive.

“Its not just the retail industry we should be targeting as outlets for our products. The catering industry is a huge market unexploited by British farmers.”

Mr Gill said that single farms would never be able to compete in the future when economies of size would be crucial for beef and sheep farmers.

“The catering market is not interested in buying whole animals,” he said.

“It wants specific cuts and to make a profit from selling cuts farmers have no choice but to market collectively.”