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 ?