06 July 1998
Unite to face CAP reform and supermarkets, urges Gill

By Shelley Wright

FARMERS and growers must work together to confront with the twin challenges of CAP reform and the strength of the supermarkets, insists NFU president Ben Gill.

Seize the initiative as we approach the new millennium, was his message at a show press briefing on Monday.

All producers had to prepare themselves to work in an increasingly tough international market.

  • CAP reform, when finally agreed, would result in fundamental changes to agricultural support mechanisms;
  • The strength of supermarkets, with their growing market share, was not something that would go away.
Farmers had to turn their perceived weakness in the market into a strength. Co-operation was the key.

To help, the NFU has produced a new booklet listing 66 farmer-controlled businesses, all of them members of NFU Corporate. Producers can make contact with these organisations which, in turn, can help put them in touch with potential buyers, said Mr Gill. There are more than 540 farmer-controlled businesses in the UK.

These farmer-controlled businesses offer the benefits of scale when buying products, such as fertiliser, as well as marketing their products to processors and manufacturers, retailers and caterers.

A recent NFU survey showed that 80% of producer-run organisations had delivered increased profits to their members last year, resulting from premium prices, reduced input costs, access to new markets, credit protection, share dividends and low-cost loans.

The slogan United we stand, divided we fall was particularly applicable to the farming industry in the current climate. Smaller farmers and growers often feel like David facing the Goliath of the giant multiple retailers, caterers, manufacturers and processors, Mr Gill said.

An industry that co-operated was one that would have a stronger negotiating position in the food chain. Together we can beat the current crisis and together we can keep Britain farming into the new millennium, he added.