The Prospects for British Agriculture
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The world is gradually unravelling all its trading barriers under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation. When this is completed, and there is a totally free market world-wide for all agricultural products, then what will happen to Britain and Europe? Can they compete ? In what markets ?

Climate, Land and Crops In world terms, Britain has a very poor climate.

  • There are no oil-seed crops which are suitable for human consumption that can be economically grown in Britain (oil-seed rape is an animal fodder, though a product suitable for human consumption can now be extracted from some recent varieties; sunflowers don't grow so well here compared to Mediterranean climates)
  • The great plains of the USA and the Russian steppes have enormous advantages for cereal production, due to both climate and flatness (and thus ease of mechanisation)
  • Britain seems to do very well with potatoes, but this is a relatively unfashionable and low-value crop.
  • Spain and South Africa appear to be able to grow strawberries the whole year round
  • Many countries seem to be able to undercut the prices of British apples, but they can't seem to get the quality as good (yet)

Pests and diseases.

  • Because of the generally mild and cool climate, Britain may have an advantage because insects and plant diseases are not as severe as in hotter climates. There are no 'plagues of locusts', and so less chemical intervention is needed in Britain
  • Animals may grow less quickly in Britain, but they may convert food input into body weight better, and the diseases they might suffer from are less severe than in other countries

Conservation and long-term Economics

  • Britain is perhaps more advanced with conservation and wildlife protection measure, which may currently be an overhead, but in future may become an asset.
  • The organic movement seems to have found a good market, with good mark-ups in price for the highest quality organic products
  • Many farmers are in serious financial difficulties to repay the loans on capital investment in new equipment
  • Oil. One must inevitably expect the price of oil to keep on rising. There is a finite supply of oil, and there are no realistic replacements available. Major price rises would have a great impact on food markets, probably increasing local production and decreasing world trade dramatically. The price of oil will obviously double in future - but, will this be over 10 years or 20, and what impacts will it have ? How should countries prepare for this ?

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