Oxford Farming conference – in quotes

By Laurence Gibbons

- Last updated on GMT

Growth opportunities for agribusinesses was among the key topics addressed by Owen Paterson and other speakers at the Oxford Farming conference
Growth opportunities for agribusinesses was among the key topics addressed by Owen Paterson and other speakers at the Oxford Farming conference

Related tags European union Common agricultural policy

Opportunities for growth among agribusinesses, the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), population growth and new technologies were key topics addressed at the Oxford Farming Conference, earlier this week (Tuesday 7 January).  Here, we capture in quotes a flavour of the conference in the words of some of its speakers.

Opportunities for the industry

Owen Paterson, environment secretary of state:

  • “The whole supply chain is worth nearly £100bn, employing nearly 4M people. I firmly believe there is room for further growth, not least as a result of the industry’s robust traceability, rigorous production standards and top quality produce. You have great opportunities to grow thanks to your well-deserved, world-wide reputation.”
  • “Tastes and diets are becoming more westernised as middle classes continue to grow. This presents phenomenal opportunities to increase production for the domestic and export markets, and to sell our world-class science and technology abroad.”

Simon Coveney, Irish minister for agriculture, food and the marine:

  • “We are at the start of a golden era for agribusinesses in Ireland and it’s up to Britain and other EU member states to buy in to it. You have the capacity to produce food, safe, nutritious, high-quality food.”
  • “By 2030 we are going to have to find a way of producing nearly 50% more food in volume terms than is currently being produced to simply feed the world at current consumption patterns, and we’ll have to do that when agricultural land availability is shrinking by 1% a year and at a time when water resources are becoming more scarce. So this is an extraordinary challenge, but it’s also an extraordinary opportunity, particularly for the EU, in terms of finding new ways of producing food from the resources we have.”


Peter Kendall, president, National Farmers Union

  • “Getting the CAP right is absolutely fundamental, not just for us as farmers but for all of us inside the EU, our children and our children’s children. It’s difficult to overstate how much the future of the CAP matters.”
  • “I believe we took profoundly the wrong direction with CAP. There are six things that need to happen if we are going to create a CAP that works. They are ​… an improvement in government … to make the food chain work … we must base decisions on science … undertake a review of our competencies … environmental protection and enhancement … and we must challenge for the next European commissioner.”

Owen Paterson:

  • “The latest reforms didn’t go as far as I would have liked. But even with a smaller overall CAP budget English farmers are set to benefit from over £11.5bn in Pillar 1 single farm payments from 2013 to 2019. That’s around £1.6bn each year going to farmers. And the environment will benefit from over £3bn of rural development investment from 2014 to 2020. That’s an average of about £440M a year.
  • “We need to keep the delivery of both Pillar 1 direct payment and Pillar 2 rural development as simple as possible. We must not introduce the same degree of complexity as in the last round of CAP reform, which has led us having to pay back £600M in fines.”

 Simon Coveney:

  • “We need to put market management tools in place instead of expecting CAP to solve every price crisis that comes along.”

New technologies

Owen Paterson:

  • “In order to take advantage of expanding markets and opportunities, I want our farmers and food producers to have access to the widest possible range of technologies – from new applications of robotics and sensor technology to new LED lighting in greenhouses and cancer-fighting broccoli.”
  • “There are other tools in the toolbox, GM is not a panacea. But the longer that Europe continues to close its doors to GM, the greater the risk that the rest of the world will bypass us altogether. Europe risks becoming the Museum of World Farming as innovative companies make decisions to invest and develop new technologies in other markets.”

Simon Coveney:

  • “There are lots of technologies that can allow us to become more efficient food producers. For example, sexed semen technology. Farmers can now be given the tools of actually choosing whether they want a male or female calf. There’s genomics and the science around managing the DNA of animals in terms of what animals should be crossed with other animals to get the maximum from hybrid vigour.”
  • “You can do dramatic things to improve efficiency, to reduce emissions, to increase productivity, to increase profitability from a whole series of innovative new ways of producing food. GM is part of that mix, but it’s only part of that mix.”

Look out for our exclusive videos with the speakers on FoodManufacture.co.uk next week, and enjoy the first of two videos with Simon Coveney here.

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