27 March 1998

NFU urges cut in £s strength

CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has been urged to ease the burden on the UK farming industry by taking swift action to reduce the strength of sterling.

In a letter to Mr Brown, NFU president Ben Gill said the strong £, which since last weeks Budget has hit its highest levels in more than a decade against the Deutsch-mark, was leaving the UK industry at a competitive disadvantage.

Sterlings strength had resulted in many agricultural commodity prices being slashed. The result was not only a dramatic fall in farm incomes, but also reduced investment which was affecting the farming supply sector.

"I appreciate that there is no easy solution to the current economic dilemma in the UK, where the traded sector is in danger of slipping into recession while at the same time inflationary pressures in the economy as a whole remain.

"However, serious long-term damage is being done not only to the farming industry, but to the whole rural economy," the letter warned.