30 October 1998

Small family farm losses a disgrace

PRINCE Charles has called the potential loss of small family farms in remote communities a national disgrace.

Speaking at the Soil Assoc- iations annual food awards in London, the Prince said that small-scale farmers were not only the backbone of rural culture, but were the most effective stewards of the land and the landscape.

"They practice agri-culture not agri-industry, and the contribution they make to the nation is hugely undervalued," said Prince Charles.

But he said that, while many of these farmers would cease production, sales of some organic produce were expected to double in the next year.

Imported sales

And, of those sales, 60-70% would be imported from countries such as Austria and Sweden where organic farming industries were forecast to account for 10% of agricultural production by the year 2000.

In contrast, he said, organic farming in the UK would probably account for only 1% by the new millennium. That had nothing to do with the UK climate or the CAP.

Prince Charles said it was a wasted opportunity for UK farmers. And although organic farming had become much more attractive, with payments for the conversion period, producers in the UK also deserved maintenance support.

Jonathan Riley

beyond the conversion period.