UK food sector has a strong future, says NFU

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union

NFU president Peter Kendall is confident that UK food producers
will overcome the numerous challenges they face in a rapidly
changing world.

Speaking at the recent Oxford Farming Conference, he said that he wanted to see a 'strong, productive, dynamic and competitive' industry that places its environmental responsibilities at the heart of its activities; and not one that winds down production for others to take up the market.

"We in the NFU (National Farmers Union) take real issue with the pessimistic view of inevitable decline and loss of importance,"​ he said.

"We believe that commercial farming should play a crucial role in this country."

Kendall pointed out, for example, that population growth is expected to increase from over 6 billion people to over 9 billion by 2050.

"Combine this with the rapidly expanding economies of Asia and their changing dietary habits indicate that we will need to double our world agricultural production by 2050,"​ he said.

"There is now growing evidence that the era of cheap world food is drawing to a close and agriculture will be more valued as a source of production than it has been in the last 60 years."

This of course underlines the point that agricultural producers in the UK and elsewhere in Europe now operate very much in an international context and that this is something that should be embraced.

" We compete in a single European market; an essential task of government is to give us equal terms of competition,"​ he said.

Kendall went on to criticise those that failed to recognise the logical need to extend this concept of the single market in order to open up new opportunities.

" I think it is about time to recognise that indiscriminate trade liberalisation will not favour African countries; on the contrary, it will erode their current preferences,"​ he said.

"It is also about time to stop condemning the EU and to acknowledge that recent policy changes show a commitment to elimination of trade distorting support and to elimination of export subsidies that goes way beyond that of other industrialised countries.

"The debate has moved on and politicians should really be better informed."

This point was echoed by European agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, who also addressed Oxford delegates on how a future globalised food ingredients market might look. As with Kendall, she said that the farming sector of the future must be a competitive farming sector.

"This is not a prophecy of doom,"​ she said.

"In the agrifood sector, we may spend a lot of time worrying about Brazil. But how often do we think about countries such as India, where we tap into only a fraction of the potential demand for wines, spirits and other high-quality goods that we produce so well?"

She argued that Europe should be working hard to pull down the barriers that restrict its presence in such markets.

Related topics: Market Trends

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