Technology and innovation hold the key for opportunities post-Brexit but up until now productivity of British agriculture has not kept pace with its counterparts.
Clemmie Gleeson reports...
That was the view of Conservative MP George Freeman, who told the Norfolk Farming Conference the industry needed a change of mindset.
“If we want to improve productivity and that means improve profits for frontline farmers, then we need technology and precision farming,” he said.
Functional foods and nutraceuticals and use of genetic modification were huge opportunities, he said.
He gave the example of the blight resistant potato developed by scientists in Norfolk which could potentially boost yields while cutting chemical dependence.
“It exists – it is an incredible innovation,” said Mr Freeman.
“A Europe that is banning a blight resistant potato is a Europe that is relegating itself to the dark ages,” he said.
“I would like us to export that technology around the world.
“However none of this can happen if we get Brexit wrong,” he warned.
“For me [Brexit] was instruction from the British people to leave the political union but to remain part of some form of single market.”
He criticised senior politicians in their handling of Brexit negotiations. “The whole process has been driven by a very small group of people as if it’s some secret and I’m afraid we are seeing our chickens come home to roost.
“It is the biggest negotiation I have ever been a spectator of,” he said.
NFU president Minette Batters the uncertainty was costing the industry millions of pounds.
“Lack of clarity and certainty is causing massive concern. We do get challenged on use of severe language but we believe this is really, really serious,” she said.
She urged delegates to engage with their MPs over the Agriculture Bill which in its current form fails to address food and farming.
“This is landmark legislation for us, it is an Agriculture Bill so it should have food and agriculture at the face of it. It should be tied to the land.”