Farmers need to embrace partnerships

More farmers and food companies need to embrace a partnership approach if they are to survice in a global marketplace warned EFFP's chief executive Sion Roberts yesterday.

A divide between 'thinkers' and 'blinkers' is emerging in Britain's food industry, with the majority of food companies and farmers yet to embrace the partnership approach required to succeed in the 21st century.

That was yesterday the verdict of Sion Roberts, chief executive of English Farming & Food Partnership -the organisation established to facilitate greater co-operation between food companies and farmers.

Speaking at the EFFP's 4th annual conference he said that while huge opportunities exist for 'thinkers', the 'blinkers' risk losing valuable ground if they fail to adapt to the new realities of the global market.

Roberts argued that while a new dynamic is beginning to emerge, with food companies and farmers embracing a partnership approach, they remain a minority of 'thinkers', with the majority yet to ditch the 'them and us' mindset.

The message was intended as a rallying cry to an industry which has been plagued by years of mutual mistrust. Roberts made the case that against a backdrop of food and energy prices being influenced by global forces and, at the same time, an increasing interest by consumers in provenance and 'local food', food companies and farmers must form a partnership approach.

He warned that the risk of not doing so would be that farmers would become bit-part players in an increasingly global, cost-led industry, while food companies may find themselves unable to source the raw ingredients required to produce the differentiated products their consumers demand.

"Only collaboration can deliver security of supply from a known source as well as efficiency of production," Roberts said. "The opportunity has never been greater - or more pressing - for farmers and food companies to take off the blinkers and work together."