BRITISH FARMERS, who are currently poor sellers of commodity products in a well-developed market place, have to invest in adding value beyond their farm gates.

Steve Ellwood, head of agriculture at HSBC, told farmers attending an IGER seminar that CAP reform meant that they would soon be on their own in an increasingly global market.

While he believed that the trading signals received would be clearer, British agriculture had to reconnect with markets to receive them and respond.

Farmers had to become more organised and engage with others in the food chain rather than blaming them for their strength.

He said the UK food market‘s good route to consumers made it attractive to other countries and producers would have to fight to keep market share.

But the rewards were greatest for those providing add-ons, like convenience, packaging and traceability, rather than raw materials.

There was a sound case for investing beyond the farm gate. Co-ops could provide a partial solution, but so too could joint ventures and shared investment schemes.

The big question was whether the industry was prepared to take risks and have faith in the highly skilled business managers needed to run farmer-controlled companies, he said.

“I hope the banks will be prepared to invest time and money in the development of potentially profitable businesses,” said Mr Ellwood.