Fighting spirit lifts the gloom

20 February 1998

Fighting spirit lifts the gloom

SOUTH-WEST farmers are fighting back. After a short period of unprecedented despondency, farmers realise the future rests in their own hands. And they are determined to ensure that it is profitable.

Their response to the crisis in farming takes many forms – demos at supermarket distribution depots, rapid development of co-ops and added value enterprises, and drastic restructuring of businesses to reduce overheads and borrowings.

Martyn Warren, head of land use and rural management at Plymouth Universitys Seale Hayne faculty, sees neither any prospect of better prices in the next two or three years, nor any sign of government rescue packages. The biggest influence on SW farm incomes will continue to be EU farm policy. And the outcome of the next CAP reform will be close to that indicated in the EUs Agenda 2000 proposals, he predicts.

Environmental aid

Falling product prices will be balanced partly by increased environmental payments which will depend on more than hedge maintenance. Subsidies will probably be based on whole production systems and organic production might be encouraged, says Mr Warren.

Although there will be no widespread collapse of SW farming, producers face a challenging future. "Either you cut costs or look to your markets. And for most that means supermarkets," he explains. Supermarkets are likely to continue their domination of the retail sector.

Consumer demands expressed through retailers are stronger, clearer and more fickle than ever. Producers need to receive those signals and to adapt quickly, he says. &#42

Martyn Warren: Little prospect of

better prices or rescue package.

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