27 April 2000
Farmers will survive crisis, says Gill
by FWi staff
FARM leader Ben Gill believes that farmers can survive the crisis in agriculture and have a successful future in the industry.
The president of the National Farmers Union acknowledged that farmers face real and difficult issues but said that there were ways of riding out the current crisis.
Better marketing and technical efficiency, adding value to produce and broad-based diversification must become the watchwords of the future, he said.
Mr Gill made the claim during a lecture called Where will the future leave UK Farming to the millennium agricultural conference at Cirencester, Gloucestershire.
Farm incomes had collapsed largely because of the totally unjustified strength of Sterling against the Euro, he told delegates on Thursday (27 April).
This week, the Euro fell to 58p against the Pound. The World Bank has recently suggested a proper value for the pound should be around 81 pence, said Mr Gill.
The consequence of this for farmers was a collapse in support prices, he added. A realistic rate could life milk prices by 5p per litre and cereal prices by 25 a tonne.
Government inaction over this issue is threatening vast areas of the UK economy and their dismissal of the problem as being outside their area of control cannot be acceptable, said Mr Gill.
That is why we are in discussion with other leading industrial representative bodies to highlight the long term damage being caused to both the manufacturing and agriculture industries by the continued overvaluation of sterling.
At the same time UK farmers have been hit hard by the ever increasing regulatory burden which has threatened to drive many out of business the substantial fall-out in the pig industry is testament to that.
Mr Gill added: The Regulatory Review must continue with a degree of urgency across the spectrum of agriculture and horticulture.
But we must also do more to help ourselves and the government must create a structure within which we can deliver.
Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in the milk sector where, with only 85% self sufficiency, we are at the bottom of the EU price league.
We need to copy what others have done and bring together the very many supplying groups in to a small number of strong market orientated bodies that can deliver a fairer share of the final sale value of our products.
This need for size and power in the food chain can and must deliver significant benefits to us as primary producers and applies to every sector.
We need to be able to identify and promote with pride our produce. The new British Farm Standard mark is a crucial part of this equation.