26 January 1996

Marketing has been a miserable failure

FARMERS have "failed miserably" at marketing in the past decade, maintained Yorks grower Kevin Littleboy. They must now become better marketeers to cope with the "unprecedented volatility" freer markets will bring.

"The retail price index for food has risen 53%, but farm gate prices have risen 28%. Is that a record we should be proud of?"

He urged farmers to change. "No other industry sits on its backside and expects somebody to buy its product at the highest price. No other industry ignores its customers so thoroughly. And no other industry expects the government to owe it a living."

Mr Littleboy doubted many UK growers could continue to operate individually. More co-operation is needed. "Machinery rings, buying groups and shared labour are a start. But to achieve a better market share, farmers need to band together to supply the consistency required by buyers."

Co-ops also need to be more integrated in the food chain to add value to the final product. &#42