5 May 1995

MAFFpredicts a grim future

ONE in two of todays cereals farmers will be out of business within 10 years.

That is the gloomy forecast contained in a little publicised MAFF estimate which Dr Mike Carver, director of Arable Research Centres, relayed to North Humberside growers at a Driffield conference organised by AF Northern last week.

The challenge is to reduce unit cost of production by making high technology systems work in a declining marketplace. That dem-ands quality input information.

Tough times undoubtedly lie ahead, Dr Carver noted. Indeed, had grain prices kept place with inflation since 1955, farmers would be receiving £300/t for cereals today. No other industry has had its product price cut to one third of what it was 40 years ago. "It is amazing you are still in business."

UK growers must build upon their one inherent advantage of high yield potential, he argued. It must not be thrown away, as lower input advocates suggest.

But "extreme care" is needed on input choice – 920 winter wheats and 930 barleys can be legally bought in the UK, from 733 seed companies. That leaves farmers 681,690 combinations to choose from. A lot of money could be lost making the wrong choice, he warned. Care is also needed in choosing and timing chemical sprays. A proliferation of new products is coming on to the market – many of them new names for old products.