Memorandum submitted by the Home Grown
Cereals Authority (A25)
This response to the consultation is presented
by the Home-Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA). HGCA is the primary
body responsible for supporting the efficient production, marketing
and processing of UK cereal and oilseed crops on behalf of producers,
traders, processors and exporters. The responses primarily focus
on the cereal and oilseed sectors of arable farming.
OF UK AGRICULTURE
The provision of a safe, sufficient and secure
supply of wholesome and nutritious food to the UK population which
embraces choice in terms of both quality and variety.
The food to be produced efficiently and competitively
so that it reaches consumers at reasonable prices and does not
involve excessive or unnecessary contributions from taxpayers.
In this context competitive should be interpreted to mean in competition
with imported produce and capable of achieving success in export
markets, but in so doing should not compromise accepted safety
and welfare standards, particularly in animal production.
The food to be produced in a sustainable manner,
in the sense of not adversely affecting the future capacity of
the British countryside and farming to continue to meet the requirements
of the British people. In this context "sustainable"
should be interpreted to include a sustainable rural economy in
terms of employment opportunities, rural services and regional
development, as well as bio-diversity and amenity.
The countryside to provide for the growing and
diverse demand for amenity in terms of scenic value and recreation.
UK AGRICULTURE TO
The production of food that is nutritious and
wholesome and forms a key component of a healthy, balanced diet.
UK production systems conform to a range of demanding standards
and assurances schemes so that levels of safety and traceability
currently demanded are met and the food is demonstrably safe in
relation to biological (eg mycotoxins) and chemical (eg residues)
That home-grown cereals underpin substantial
sectors of the UK economy including animal feed, milling and baking
contributing significantly to national prosperity. In many cases
these industries are significant employers in the rural economy.
For example, the UK chicken industry employs directly 45,000 people
largely in rural areas. The crops produced are competitive at
world market prices, minimising the need for UK food industries
to import raw material, reducing "food miles".
The significant financial contributions made
by UK-produced cereals to the national economy. An important part
of this contribution is reflected in the significant export of
grain and grain based products, valued last year at £4.5
Effective communication along the grain demand
chain and the adaptability at all stages to identify and meet
the needs of the market place. For example, the switch to wheat
varieties with characteristics desired by the milling and baking
An agricultural community that, largely at their
own expense, have sought to create and maintain the present varied
and attractive landscape, required and valued by the population.
The current support mechanisms are effectively
delivered to the farmer and hence reach directly the rural community
That farming has responded to the need for change
away from the production driven CAP of the 1970s. Environmental
and quality related initiatives have been welcomed and developed,
many of them at the industry's own expense. Examples include Integrated
Crop Management, Integrated Farming, Crop Assurance and FWAG.
An adaptable and resilient agricultural industry
that has consistently demonstrated its ability to respond successfully
to economic, market and environmental pressures eg rapid move
from importer to exporter of grain.
Understanding and awareness by the industry
of the need to change leading to the adoption of practices and
processes, often voluntarily introduced, that meet the perceived
needs of customers within the demand chain eg integrated farming
Deeply rooted ethos of our farmers that land
must be nurtured and managed to be productive from one generation
to the next, ensuring the development, care and maintenance of
the landscape and environment desired by the current population.
A skilled workforce in rural areas capable of
producing and processing food to meet the highest standards set
by legislation and consumer need.
A communication failure, shared between the
rural and urban populations, to explain successfully the benefits
and advantages that the UK food production industry delivers in
terms of standards, traceability and safety.
The same communication failure that has not
informed the public of the environmental achievements that have
occurred as a result of changes in farming practice that have
A lack of profitability at the producer end,
that limits the ability to invest in environmental and structural
Imports of raw material, and particularly product,
that appear not to have had to meet the same, stringent standards
applied to UK products yet they are acceptable to both retailer
The interpretation and application of EU directives
and regulations by UK government in ways that are inconsistent
with other member states, which unfairly increases the burden
and cost on the UK industry seeking to be competitive.
Current exchange rates, which are having a significantly
adverse effect on competitiveness.
Lack of confidence in the need for a UK-based
food industry brought about by government, lobby group and consumer
Underdeveloped policies and many different schemes,
which deliver confused messages and a lack of definition of the
specific environmental goods required. In many cases the policies
and schemes carry a high administrative burden and objectives
which are, but need not be, inconsistent with competitive, commercial
Failure of the government to acknowledge that
arable farmers are in a position to exert a positive influence
on the environment.
UK AGRICULTURE CONTINUES
Improve the capability of agencies, particularly
government, to record and monitor accurately information, current
trends and changes in the industry. It is widely recognised that
major restructuring is taking place in the arable sector yet the
inadequate government data collection systems record very little
change occurring. Similarly, it has been widely cited that cereal
production is not competitive and that there are large grain surpluses
in the EU. Neither is correct. Accurate information would appear
to be a prerequisite for robust policy formulation.
Resist the temptation to act quickly and produce
new schemes. Past experience indicates that these are demanding
in administration costs (c 50 per cent of funds). Administration
costs of any new schemes should be offset by savings in the administration
of existing schemes, thereby ensuring that the amount reaching
the farmer is not diminished.
Review, rationalise and clarify the myriad of
current schemes, both nationally and regionally based, relating
to environmental management and agricultural production.
Search for policies, which contribute to consistency
and complementarity in the attainment of the various expectations
for the production of food, that is safe, nutritious and competitively
priced and for the management and maintenance of the farmed landscape.
4.5 The central tenet of this submission
is that, as far as those areas of the UK currently devoted to
arable cultivation are concerned, policies based on the approach
outlined above are the only option that an reasonably be expected
4.6 In support of this, we argue that a
substantial proportion of the British countryside is currently
devoted to the production of cereals and oilseeds and that it
is not feasible to contemplate the possibility of a substantial
proportion of this area being actively managed to produce exclusively
4.7 Thus, any policy development which leads
to the production of cereals and oilseeds becoming non-viable,
implies dereliction of vast parts of the UK land area, implying
a negative impact on virtually all of the "expectations"
for the economic, social and environmental components of rural
4.8 Therefore, maintaining a healthy and
profitable arable sector is central to meeting these expectations.
This can be achieved using the current support system, as at present,
but by regulating and defining the conditions on which payments
are made. These conditions should be based on achieving complementarity
between an efficient and competitive sector, a sustainable rural
economy, and an appealing countryside.
13 December 2001