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Agriculture: Competition

Volume 493: debated on Monday 1 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the level of competitiveness in the farming industry; and if he will make a statement. (274932)

British farmers work extremely hard in challenging circumstances and the competitiveness of the industry is a key concern of the Government. Between 1973 and 2008, the productivity (measured as total factor productivity1) of UK agriculture grew by 55 per cent.2 In addition to productivity, the international competitiveness of UK farming also depends, at least partially, on the strength of sterling against the currencies of our major competitors. The recent weakening of the pound against the euro since mid-2008 has meant that British agricultural exports are priced more competitively against our European competitors thereby strengthening our position on the EU export markets. However, in order to maintain competitiveness in the longer term, the industry must improve its productivity performance relative to the farming industries in our main competitor countries, and the Government are committed to helping them do so.

1 Total factor productivity is a physical measure of productivity and encompasses all businesses engaged in farming activities, including specialist contractors. Total factor productivity excludes subsidies.

2 Source: AUK 2008 Chapter 10, paragraph 6.