21 November 2001
Put quality first, says Welsh Assembly

By Robert Davies, Wales correspondent

FARMERS in Wales must compete on quality rather than price if they are to survive, warns a Welsh Assembly blueprint on agriculture.

The Farming for the Future document insists this is the only realistic option for an industry that was in long-term decline before the foot-and-mouth crisis.

The report, produced after a year of consultation, says the Welsh industry faces a fundamental choice.

It must decide whether to continue to try to compete in the market for basic commodities, where competition is on price, or to collaborate to add value.

Farmers and processors must work together to deliver products targeted at consumers prepared to pay premium prices, the report argues.

But it also emphasises that environmental and food safety considerations must be integral parts of animal and land management.

Agricultural production needs to be very efficient and, where possible, combined with other income generating non-farming options like tourism.

The blueprint pledges the National Assemblys commitment creating conditions that will help the whole industry adapt to improve incomes.

This includes securing the right trading and subsidy framework providing advice through the Farming Connect network, and reviewing planning regulations.

The Farmers Union of Wales welcomed the document, but said it represents only the first step on the road to the recovery.

“We fully support the principle of co-operation and adding value to primary products, and to diversification, said spokesman Alan Morris.

But the necessary funding must be made available,”.