We should never underestimate how important we are and on the flip side how marginalised we have become.

Recently at the Oxford Farming Conference Professor Dieter Helm gave a stark reminder of what a small proportion to the economy agriculture and land use provide; how that, in the grand scheme of international trade deals and Brexit, we will not be the major focus that we may hope to be.

It was sobering stuff.

Michael Gove followed this and explained how we would be moving to a world of environment first and food production second. Quite right. Working in a biological system, we are only too aware of the affect climate change is having on our industry.

Recently China has threatened to raise a levy on US agricultural goods. The commentators have made clear that a phoney war becomes a real one when tariffs are raised on things people really care about, like agricultural produce.

At the same time the world has woken up to the threat to our marine environment because of plastics. The spotlight turns immediately onto how food is packaged, almost to the exclusion of all else. I personally, am sure that the small amount of material used to keep our soft fruit in good condition is necessary and indeed proportionate in comparison to some of the prisoners of plastic that I have encountered. The release of consumer goods like scissors, smoke alarms, sellotape, toys and even Easter eggs can be a workout in themselves.

Yes, we must put our own house in order. We must not forget that we are only a small part of the economic equation because we have been so successful in reducing the price of our output. That we are an industry already so efficient it is unlikely to be disrupted and that is why economists wish to claim we barely register on the graphs. We are still essential and our modern economy only performs because we feed everyone so efficiently which allowing to have spare cash for buying the goods that drive our consumer economy.

Change is coming, expectations will be made of us, but we must also ask other industries and consumers to match our standards in terms of waste reduction and financial efficiency.

17 May 2018 Latest from the Directors

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Dave Robertson, Stackpole Farms
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