“Our toolbox as food producers is becoming increasingly depleted, at the very time we need to be stepping up to the challenge of producing more,” said Mr Perkin Evans, Chairman of NFU Cymru’s Combinable Crops and Horticulture Working Group at the Group’s recent meeting.
A new campaign by the Union, called ‘Healthy Harvest’ has just been launched in response to concerns that already flat-lining UK crop production will go into further decline if our farmers continue to lose access to key plant protection products. Statistics show that since 2001, half the plant protection products on the market have been lost, and over the next five years, half of what is left could also disappear from the market owing to overzealous regulation, not backed up by sound science.
Commenting on the campaign Mr Evans said, “Europe is fast becoming an over-regulated environment for farmers to operate within. We are steadily losing our markets to farmers elsewhere in the world, who have better access to more effective means of crop protection and production. With global demand for food heading in only one direction, now is certainly not the time to be taking away the tools that we need to be able to produce disease free, high yielding crops, and we need the same access to safe technology as our competitors if we are to have a productive and competitive sector.”
Mr Evans went on to say, “As more and more products get withdrawn, there is simply not the corresponding level of new products arriving on the market to replace them, and the reality is that European requirements to bring a new product to market have become prohibitively expensive and time consuming, leaving farmers and growers with fewer and fewer products to choose from. To make things worse, many manufacturers are decreasing investment in the European market, partly because it is over-regulated.
“As a Union we keep lobbying our regulators to ensure that both EU and domestic regulators base the control of plant protection products on sound science, and this has to include lobbying the EU to move away from its current hazard based approach, and return to a risk-based process.
In addition to this our domestic regulators need to review UK specific measures to ensure a level playing field across the EU for farmer and growers. As farmers and growers we also have a role to play in promoting best practice when using chemicals, and to build on our good record when it comes to pesticide stewardship.”