Farmers will never be able to take on the might of the supermarkets without closer co-operation, according to the Country Land and Business Association.
CLA chief economist Allan Buckwell said that supermarkets were here to stay. The only way farmers could boost their bargaining power was to work with each other, he said.
“Consumers love the convenience and choice the supermarkets provide, and that’s not going to change.
“The only thing farmers can do is shorten the supply chain or work together. If they don’t do that, they are condemned to remain in their unequal bargaining position,” Mr Buckwell said at the Devon County show on 19 May.
Devon county councillor Will Mumford agreed.
“The divide and conquer strategy is more prevalent in agriculture than anywhere else.”
The industry had to join forces with a common voice, and improve its marketing power.
“We mustn’t view agriculture in isolation – there is a plethora of businesses from the field to the plate, and people are very interested in food.”
Garnering public support and understanding of agriculture was key to the success of the industry, added James Del Mar, head of Knight Frank’s rural consultancy department.
“We are not at the top of the government’s agenda, however important food security is. We have to be better at public relations and marketing, and explaining what we do,” said Mr Del Mar.