21 April 2000

How farmers are adapting

FARMERS responses to the rapidly changing marketplace for their products are detailed and discussed in two reports from Exeter University economics department.

Vertical co-ordination in Agriculture considers the trend towards closely linked chains from farmer to retailer.

Such chains provide threats as well as opportunities, says author Ben Davies, because of the huge size and power of the top retailers relative to farmers.

"Managing these relationships will be a new departure for many farmers and raises a range of concerns for government policy in the areas of contract supervision, price reporting, food safety codes, regulation of competitive practices, market facilitation, and production support," says Mr Davies.

Farm groups and red meat marketing is based on a survey of members of a retailers producer club and members of three livestock co-ops.

Those in the co-ops joined in hope of collectively countering the power of supermarkets, though in practice they were too small to achieve that, the report suggests.

The survey highlighted a widespread view that supermarkets bought the cream of the beef cattle direct, leaving lower quality in the auctions which meant deadweight prices would compare very favourably with auction averages.

Questions on GM animals met fierce opposition from livestock producers, especially sheep farmers. They feared they would damage the natural image of lamb.

&#8226 Reports, priced at £10 each, are available from Agricultural Economics Unit, University of Exeter, Lafrowda House, St Germans Road, Exeter, Devon EX4 6TL. &#42