Delegates at the Co-operative Congress engaged in an active discussion on the future of farming and the role of co-ops in food security.
The debate was preceded by a presentation from Clarke Willis, CEO of Anglia Farmers and raised new concerns over GM food.
The largest agricultural purchasing group in the UK, Anglia Farmers is one of the 48 agricultural co-ops that figure in UK’s top 100 co-operatives.
This year Anglia Farmers had a turnover of £231m, an increase of 11 per cent compared to last year. AF has also developed a graduate programme which they hope will run nationally over the next three years.
“There is a massive opportunity out there, we do have to think outside the box,” said Mr Willis. In spite of these positive results, the CEO said Anglia Farmers is faced with many challenges, one of them being putting food security into context.
In his speech to the Congress, Mr Willis referred to Professor’s John Berrington’s report that brought back into light climate change fears. He explained how farmers across the UK are faced with new challenges, as they need to adapt to severe weather conditions.
With price volatility being another great challenge ahead, creating scale is also more difficult given how the market works. Another challenge is commitment, members having to commit to two products per year, or else they have to leave the group.
As global population continually increasing, alternatives need to be explored, argued Mr Willis, including GM products.
“As an industry we have not been good at telling promoting and telling people about the challenges we face.”
CEO of Midcounties Co-operative, Ben Reid, who also took part in the discussion, said that Midcounties were not in favour of introducing GM food, but that in the future they might be in a situation where this will be inevitable.