Archive Article: 2001/02/09

9 February 2001

Kevin Littleboy

Kevin Littleboy farms 243ha

(600 acres) as Howe

Estates at Howe, Thirsk, N

Yorks. The medium sandy

loam in the Vale of York

supports potatoes, winter

wheat, rape and barley, plus

grass for sheep

IN 1938, AG Street wrote:"The dissatisfaction with the governments agricultural policy or lack of one seems to becoming widespread. I have just received a cutting from a Yorkshire paper that tells me that northern farmers are quite as disgruntled as southern ones."

That is so true this year, with potatoes still in the ground and wheat undrilled. There are many dispirited potato farmers from the Vale of York northwards and I predict a significant shift of potatoes away from this area. The dreadful state of the unlifted potatoes leads to being unable to finance next years crop.

Having just returned from a marketing course run by the Institute of Grocery Distribution, MAFF and the NFU, partly financed by the rural development fund, in collaboration with Asda, I have come to the opinion that every farmer should attend.

The staggering changes to UKs demographic profile, eating habits and shopping trends over the past 10 years is sobering to say the least. If this pace of change continues, farming will have to totally realign its production to the rapid and ever changing demands of the consumer.

The food chain will become totally integrated from plough to plate. It will be based on producing a product to a specific specification for an end user. The independence that we have enjoyed in growing for a buyer to drive down the lane to purchase will disappear.

Whether I like it or not, I see that even basic commodities like wheat will be grown on contract for a mill or processor as is the case with my potatoes. Even livestock will require a buyer or contract prior to the start of the production process.

The courses are being run around the country and are open to everybody – ring your NFU regional office for details.

Due to the continuing appalling weather, not a wheel has turned on the farm in earnest since October. My men have banned all shoelaces and belts from the farm office. Its enough to drive one to drink… Pint, please. &#42

An NFU/MAFF/IGD marketing course was a sobering experience, but one all should attend, says Kevin Littleboy.

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