December 12 2013 Latest news:
By Sarah Chambers
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
THE world-class food and farming industry in Suffolk can help the county’s economy grow and be a powerful magnet for tourists, a major conference has been told.
The Suffolk Food and Agriculture Conference, held yesterday, highlighted the challenges that will be faced in the years ahead – but stressed what a huge asset the industry is.
Westhorpe farmer David Barker told dele-gates at Trinity Park, Ipswich, that there were opportunities for the industry to develop and many farmers were already successfully diversifying.
“I would suggest Suffolk farmers are among the best at producing crops and livestock in the world,” he said. “It’s important to remember how significant this sector is to the Suffolk economy and the Suffolk people.”
The food and farming sector also had a key role to play in tourism, he said.
Tourists “don’t come to Suffolk for Tesco and Starbucks”, but for the local food and drink and the natural environment, Mr Barker added.
“There’s a great opportunity for this industry to flourish. The agri-food sector in Suffolk is immensely important,” he said.
A range of speakers at the conference looked at key areas which need to be addressed, including recruiting the industry’s future workforce, and the importance of research and development, water and resources, infrastructure and supply chains.
Norfolk and Suffolk account for 12% of the country’s total farm output, the conference heard, and combined they produce nearly half of England’s sugar beet, turkeys and ducks, a quarter of all pigs and geese, and a fifth of the potatoes, vegetables, salads and peas.
It is predicted that in order to meet demand, global production will need to increase by 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2050, using fewer resources.
John Taylor, who farms at Clopton, near Woodbridge, explained how his generations-old family farming enterprise was embracing new technology, education and new thinking in order to maximise the quality and quantity of his crops.
Judy Terry, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for economy and skills, told delegates that “Suffolk has never really promoted itself as much as it should do”, but it had a strong farming sector and good international links, including its grain exports via the Port of Ipswich.
The conference would contribute towards Suffolk County Council’s growth strategy, she added.
MEP Vicky Ford pointed to the higher animal welfare standards, particularly in the pig and poultry sectors, to other parts of the European Union.
“We are home to some of the most productive farms, not just in the UK but in Europe and the world,” she said. “Food and farming is incredibly important and change and our little tiny corner of the world is vital in that change.”
Farming consultant Martin Collison explained how, for every £1 of value we create through growing crops, £4 can be created through food processing and a further £5 through food retail.
Anglian Water group director Mark Pendlington told conference-goers of the challenges the water industry faced in keeping up supplies in a region which included areas which were generally drier than Jerusalem and even parts of the Sahara desert.
“Here in the East of England climate change and population growth put us right on the front line,” he said. “Here we see our vulnerability in very stark terms.”