11 May 1998
NFU urges farmers to be more competitive
THE National Farmers Union (NFU) faces the difficult task of persuading its members to become more competitive in order to survive, reports the Financial Times.
The union is anxious to warn farmers that time is running out, even though it is not despondent about the industrys longer-term prospects.
Sion Roberts, the NFUs chief economist, in a report to be launched on Thursday, points to liberalisation of world trade as being one of the biggest issues farmers are going to have to come to grips with.
In 10 years from now, trade barriers that protect European agriculture from imports will have fallen to 25% of their level at the beginning of the 1990s, he said.
He also cites EU expansion which will increase the number of producing countries within the single market from 15 to 21. He added that the single currency could give an advantage to farmers in countries joining Emu.
In the past, British agriculture has been viewed as highly competitive and efficient. But the NFU believes that the UK is being caught up and even overtaken by some of its competitors.
Whereas “peasant” farmers traditionally worked the land in Brittany, France, these areas are now being dominated by large-scale horticultural, pig and poultry producers.
The labour productivity of UK farming, which in the early 1980s showed a significant lead over other European countries, has been overtaken.
The net value added – which measures how efficiently an industry converts inputs to outputs – of UK agriculture was 90% above the EU average in 1980. Now it is only 15% above the average.
But on a more positive note, Mr Roberts suggests UK farmers have a good opportunity to sell abroad if an “export culture” could be developed.
The union is asking its members to pay £15 for the competitiveness research, the first time it has asked them to do so. It is also being marketed to non-members for £60 with another section of business forecasts.
- Financial Times 11/05/98 page 7, page 20