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VIEW FROM THE AIC


WE MUST DEFEND EVERY LINK IN THE FOOD CHAIN TO DELIVER SUSTAINABILITY


By David Caffall, Agricultural Industries Confederation


‘SOSdairy’ hit the headlines and dominated the world of the Twitterati for some days. I take my hat off to the dairy sector for hitting the headlines and public sentiment so effectively. However, it has also left me pondering on how the feed sector should respond. Since the dairy campaign kicked off, I


have had requests from members telling me the Agricultural Industries Confederation should


be visibly backing the campaign. At the same time, almost as many members have told me that the industry should keep its head down. I do not belittle the success of #SOSdairy, but the campaign is


based on a simple proposition – milk is worth so much a litre when it leaves the farmgate and worth X times more on the supermarket shelf. A concept well visualised by marks up the side of a milk bottle showing ex-farm price, cost of production (above the ex-farm price) and retail price way up the top of the bottle. Just one image that hit the social media but made a really dramatic point. It was suggested we just add the feed price on the bottle graphic


and show how these were rising. That would certainly not work. In this debate, the last thing the feed industry needs is to be seen to be adding to the financial squeeze on our dairy or any livestock farmers. In addition, we could not be involved in an action that could be seen as ‘price signalling’. In my book, we need to take a bigger view. #SOSdairy has hit


the headlines, but the plight of pig and poultry producers is as bad. In fact, pig-producing friends tell me their case is even worse. It is just that they have failed to capture the public imagination in the same way as the milk industry.


So how should a trade body and the whole feed industry react? I was recently quoted as saying that the feed industry was


‘between a rock and a hard place’. A quote I stand by. Any company producing animal feed can only succeed if its customers continue to order, and importantly pay, for its products. Every farmer driven out of livestock production by the harsh economic conditions, represents some company’s lost customer. However, at present, those buying raw materials tell me that each day they see raw material prices rising on their computer screens. Therefore, we could at one level argue for a #SOSfeedcompounder


campaign. The objective would be to demonstrate the plight of feed manufacturers trapped between rising costs and farmer customers struggling to pay the bills due to inadequate returns – the classic rock and hard place.


PAGE 38 OCTOBER 2012 FEED COMPOUNDER


David Caffall is Chief Executive of the Agricultural Industries Confederation


Now, as a trade body operating to high standards of compliance


with the anti-trust legislation, we cannot play any role in influencing the market or prices (into or out of the mill). What we can do, however, is argue for a sustainable feed, farming and food industry. Feed manufacturers are part of a vital supply chain that stretches


from farmers producing raw ingredients through initial processors, hauliers, manufacturers, distributors, livestock farmers, processors, packers, distributers and finally to retailers and caterers. Everyone along this chain needs to make an adequate return. This supply chain depends on every single link being strong enough to play its part. For me a sustainable industry is all about creating equitable returns for every part of the feed, farming and foodchain. Thus AIC will be actively campaigning, as it has done since


its formation, for a modern, sustainable agriculture. We will support campaigns by all types of livestock producer alike; in fact, we will add our voice to any campaign that looks to deliver sustainability. And we are delighted that Feed Compounder is lending its name to our campaign, as illustrated in the poster on the facing page. In my view, if we do not defend every link in the foodchain then


we risk exporting the UK feed and farming industries. That represents a major economic loss to UK plc. We estimate the feed sector alone employs some 7,500 people directly. It must also make a significant contribution to the rest of Britain’s rural economy. This is the key point that we are making to politicians across the UK and devolved governments. Failure to defend sustainability does not just risk losing a few


hundred dairy farmers, it threatens jobs throughout the foodchain and leaves the UK dependent on imported food. In my book, that is not sustainable.


Readers may wish to tear the facing page out of their copy of ‘Feed Compounder’ (after diligently reading the copy on the other side, of course!) and display it on the office wall. Alternatively, the poster can be downloaded and printed from www.feedcompounder.com


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