5 December 1997

In good shape

for CAP reform

CAP reform will give British agriculture a chance to show the world what it can do, according to the government.

Highlighting massive export opportunities in the Far East and elsewhere, farm minister Lord Donoughue told farmers at the Crops conference at St Ives, Cambs, they were well placed to deal with a more competitive global marketplace.

"The arable sector is in good shape for challenging times ahead," he said, adding that the current CAP reform proposals were a step in the right direction to bring support prices closer to world market levels. But they did not go far enough.

"All aids should be fully decoupled from production," he said. "There is no justification for permanent compensation in respect of a one-off cut. Obligatory set-aside should be abolished – production constraints are not relevant in a free market."

Britain would be pressing for such measures, along with the abolition of milk quotas, during its forthcoming presidency of the EU in the new year, he added.

"We firmly believe industry should be freed from bureaucratic constraints and left to do what it does best and manage its own resources."

Praising the efforts of British Cereal Exports he noted that 6.5m tonnes of cereals were exported in 1996. This year the figure is expected to be near 5m tonnes. About 70% is shipped to the mature markets of western Europe, he noted.

"But I am particularly pleased that considerable development effort is being directed towards the huge markets of China, Brazil and North Africa – especially in higher value-added areas such as malting barley."n