20 November 1998

Safety net for now – Gill

A CONFIDENCE boost that would help keep many farms afloat during the current financial crisis was how NFU president Ben Gill described the governments £120m aid package.

"The package will provide a short-term safety net for some farmers teetering on the brink of financial collapse. All of the UKs beef, sheep and dairy farmers stand to gain a much needed injection of funding from the package," Mr Gill said.

But the government aid alone could not cure all the ills of British farmers, particularly, for example, in the pig sector. "We need continued government and Bank of England action to put downward pressure on interest rates and sterling, particularly against EU currencies.

"We also, as farmers, need to redouble our efforts to improve the efficiency of marketing chains through wider use of collaborative marketing," he said.

Country Landowners Association president Ian MacNicol said the £120m boost provided a very welcome breathing space. "But it should not blind us to the fact that further action will be needed. We welcome Nick Browns invitation to look together at initiatives to equip agriculture and other rural businesses to meet tough challenges ahead," he added.

"The government has taken a key step forward in recognising the scale and extent of the current crisis. With ever increasing global competition and pressure on margins, coupled with public demand for a well managed countryside, we as a country cannot afford not to follow up this short-term help with action to secure the longer term future of our farming, our rural areas and our countryside," said Mr MacNicol.

Government aid alone cannot cure all the ills, says Ben Gill.