4 December 1998

Industry turning round

GROWING optimism that the farming industry is finally emerging from the worst crisis in living memory was evident on the opening day of the show.

Both machinery and livestock organisers pointed to a number of positive signs, such as the recent government aid package, the lifting of the beef export ban, and the fact that the machinery trade expects to return a £1bn positive balance of trade to the UK economy this year.

Added to that, the show was also the focus for the largest DTI-sponsored inward trade mission, involving 37 overseas buyers.

Another ray of light, according to show chairman, Andrew Gilmour, was that 65 of the 380 exhibitors had never before taken stand space at Smithfield.

"We believe that the indicators for the industry are beginning to turn upwards," he said.

Donald Biggar, chairman of the Royal Smithfield Club, said the enforced developments in the livestock sector in recent years, with initiatives like traceablility and farm assurance, now meant that consumers could demand British meat and know that they were getting the best product available. The task ahead for the beef sector was to take that message back onto the world stage.

Looking to the future for domestic marketing, Mr Biggar stressed his belief that livestock marts had an important role to play. He conceded that the markets role in selling prime animals could decline but their role in handling store and breeding stock must continue.