JUNIOR DEFRA minister Lord Whitty, set out some of the challenges UK farmers face under CAP reform during a NFU fringe meeting at the Labour conference in Brighton on Sunday (Sept 26).

As the changes coming into effect in January are about enabling farmers to produce directly to the market, farmers must find ways to reconnect with consumers and the rest of the food supply chain, Lord Whitty said.

He argued that co-operation in order to get involved further up the food supply chain will be required for farmers to strengthen their position.

Taking the dairy industry as an example, Lord Whitty said: “We have one of the most efficient dairy industries in the world.

“Yet it is having a very difficult time. And this is partly because farmers are not involved in the food chain beyond the farmgate.”

“The big co-ops in countries like France and Spain have farmers involved further up the chain.

“We need to see that kind of involvement in the UK as well,” Lord Whitty said.

He pointed out that such co-operation and involvement would strengthen farmers‘ bargaining positions with the supermarkets as well.

Lord Whitty further emphasised that UK farmers must be able to compete to a far greater extent than they do today in the added-value market.

Another challenge ahead is to improve promotion of British food.

“Partly for structural reasons, and partly because of cultural factors, British farmers have not been very good at promoting their products,” Lord Whitty stated.

He said that farmers must start looking beyond the food supply chain to see what consumers want.

He expressed some doubt as to whether all UK farmers are prepared for the change in the CAP in January.

“Farmers must recognise the enormity of the changes ahead. I fear there is still a level at which the changes are not recognised or even understood,” Lord Whitty said.

He predicted that it would take some time for farmers to adjust and that some people would not be able to adapt.

“Most likely, there is some rationalisation is still to come,” Lord Whitty he said.