Archive Article: 1999/06/18

18 June 1999


Pile it high, sell it cheap is a philosophy which has plagued British farming in the past.

But it could be about to pay off in a big way if claims made by US supermarket giant Wal-Mart are to be believed.

At first sight, news that the British supermarket chain ASDA, set up by Yorkshire farmers 80 years ago, is to be swallowed up by the discount store company Wal-Mart looks like very bad news for British farming. After all, the American giants ruthless dedication to cutting costs to the bone is well known. And you dont need to be an economist to know that supermarkets that sell cheaply must buy their produce even more cheaply to stay in business.

So, claims that the £6.2bn take-over will pump £80m into British farming over the next three years is as surprising as it is welcome. But the company has apparently already approved the continuation of ASDAs Buy British policy. Its bold aim is to ensure that 98% of the companys 20,000 grocery lines will be sourced from UK farmers by 2002.

Only time will test the sincerity of that ambition. But now, more than ever before, smart retailers are becoming aware of the many benefits of buying British.

The iniquitously strong £ continues to blunt the performance of our industry. But more buyers are realising that buying British means buying an assured quality product. Witness the panic that greeted the news that Belgian pork products may be contaminated with dioxin.

For too long British food retailing has been dominated by a cosy club of supermarkets who have ruthlessly lined their own pockets by increasing product prices while remorselessly driving down farm gate prices in addition to demanding ever more exacting welfare and quality standards.

Perhaps Wal-Marts entry into British retailing is just the breath of fresh air this country needs to persuade consumers to back the best of British.

Action needed over medicine charges

Legal or not, drugs are not known for their low cost.

For livestock producers, there is little doubt that high medicine costs, compared with our overseas competitors, are an increasing concern.

Investigating the matter is not easy: Not surprisingly, everyone involved vigorously defends their corner. It is a long-running argument which shows every sign of hotting up as the industry comes under greater cost pressure.

As farmers weekly went to press, MAFF was able to respond to our queries. For manufacturers, distributors, vets and, in particular, farmers, burying the issue just isnt good enough. It needs to be tackled by the government – and soon.

High standard makes keen spray contest

Congratulations to all the finalists in this years Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year Competition.

Organised by farmers weekly and Novartis, it aims to reward best practice and promote the responsible use of pesticides.

This year the standard of entries was particularly high. Keeping neighbouring residents informed of spray applications, managing rates to reduce spray and washing waste and adapting sprayers to improve workrate are just some of the good examples set by this years top operators.

The winner will be announced at the Sprays and Sprayers Event on Tuesday, June 29. So, good luck to all the contenders for this prestigious award. Everyone is a winner who helps to promote safe spraying.

Brand character lost in the merger mix?

Funny how the big keep getting bigger. Latest in a long line of amalgamations, mergers and acquisitions is the joining of Case and New Holland.

Given regulatory approval, they will become a single entity later this year.

But not, it seems, in terms of brand. Both companies are adamant that individual brands will remain unaffected. Sound familiar? When Ford and Fiat merged to form New Holland in 1991 similar claims were made. But it took only a few years for a range of tractors to be produced which differed, in terms of Fiat and Ford branding, only in their livery.

So will the use of cost cutting common parts create a single range of Case and New Holland tractors?

Back this campaign to beat cruel disease

Cancer – the mere word can strike fear into us all. The arbitrary way in which it strikes. Its cruelty.

No one knows this better than Richard Payne, a Somerset farmer fighting testicular cancer.

Telling his story – bravely and candidly – to Farmlife, he urges other farmers to overcome the taboos surrounding the disease. To learn self-examination techniques. To act swiftly.

June is male cancer awareness month designated by the Institute of Cancer Research. farmers weekly is pleased to make a donation to this campaign. Times are hard but, where possible, we hope our readers may also decide to give something.

Please read Richards story and learn from his experiences.

Early lambing can pay if costs checked

What will you be doing on New Years Eve? Partying the night away, or stuck in the lambing shed with your January lambers?

Given early lambings poor profitability over the past few years, partying would seem to be the better option.

But it is still possible to make early lambing pay provided you achieve tight management and cost control. Without those, it is probably best for your wallet and your peace of mind if you return to main flock lambing.

But, managed properly, January lambing could really give you something to celebrate at sale time.

Crop trials needed for right GM crop decision

Now more than ever before, British farmers need to speak with one voice.

What a pity that disagreements about GM crops appears to be dividing organic and conventional farmers.

If, and its a big if, most British producers want to use the technology and it is proved safe for consumers and the environment, it would be galling to deny them the benefits of GM science.

Any decision about the future of this controversial technology must be based on scientific assessments. And to make those effective would need a comprehensive programme of crop trials.

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