French applaud our farm assurance and use of machinery
By Charles Abel
UK growers are far better mechanised than their French counterparts and it is paying them back handsomely. Farm assurance is also set to provide a competitive advantage.
Those are the views of Pierre Coutris, who led a group of 14 French arable farmers around East Anglia on a tour organised by Cargill last week.
"UK farmers seem to be prepared to invest massively in very large equipment to exploit the full yield potential of their land. This is not yet the case in France," says Mr Coutris of Valeur Agricole, a grain marketing company based near Paris.
High capacity machines mean growers can get big areas of crops established, sprayed and harvested in optimum conditions, so pushing yield hard, he feels. "Several members from our group are already talking about working together to buy the same sort of equipment."
Farms belonging to the Ceta Germijny technical discussion group based near Bourges, south of the Loire, range in size from 200 to 700ha (500 to 1700 acres). Although soil type and rainfall are similar to Lincolnshire, summer temperatures and evaporation rates are far higher, holding wheat yields down to a 7.5t/ha (3t/acre) average, notes Mr Coutris.
However, the French governments CUMA scheme offers preferential tax and interest rates and credit guarantees to encourage farmers to work together, explains Mr Coutris.
"Farmers in the UK seem to have cash from profits to make the investments themselves. This is quite surprising. In France we had it quite good for a few years until this year, but we did not have the oxygen supply provided by your weak £ back then."
UK farmers are also ahead of the game on farm assurance. "I am not aware of anything on the same scale as the UK schemes. I am sure it will come and it is the right thing for farmers to do. But the pressure from buyers is only just starting here."
However, Mr Coutris believes French growers benefit greatly from a more efficient system for getting grain into intervention. "Our industry, with its co-ops, is much better at this, keeping more of the money for farmers."
FRENCH VIEW OF UK
• Hefty investment in kit ensures timely field work leading to top yields.
• Better profits from recent years is helping finance purchases.
• UK growers in front on farm assurance – French buyers only just demanding.
Anglo-French accord…Lincs farmer Martin Jenkinson (left) of Humby Hall, Humby, Grantham explains the finer points of British oilseed rape growing to French farmer group leader Pierre Coutris (right). Main surprises for the French were the level of mechanisation throughout the UK arable sector and the drive for crop assurance.