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Mean on Sunday: farming and food are big business

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By Ian Mean, Business West Gloucestershire director

Farming and food production is big business here in Gloucestershire and their importance has been given a sharp focus by the war in Ukraine.

How many of us knew that Ukraine was the source of something like two-thirds of the world’s grain?

I certainly didn’t.

And this sharper focus on farming and Agri-Tech in our county was clear when  I visited the Royal Agricultural University at Cirencester and Hartpury University and College.

I was impressed by the straight-talking address by Vice-Chancellor 

Peter McCaffery at a lunch at the RAU, which is the oldest agricultural university in the world.

He made it very clear that global food security as highlighted by the Ukraine crisis must be a priority for the government as is the encouragement for more food production in the UK.

At the same lunch, I met an old colleague-Professor Colin Dennis-former CEO of science and technology food specialists Camden BRI and a governor of the RAU.

“I find it almost impossible to understand people who don’t know where food comes from and how it is grown”, he told me.

And he said when his wife was teaching, she asked a class where milk came from. ”Tesco”, was the reply from one boy.

And Dilys Neil, chair of Cotswold District Council, agrees with Colin.

“When there was a food crisis in the War, the government launched the Dig For Victory campaign and encouraged allotments,” she said.

At Hartpury, Business West gave members a sneak preview of their digital innovation Farm Tech Box Park.

It provides access to specialist, innovative workplaces and free support to businesses looking to develop new or existing Agri-Tech products or services and help them accelerate to market.

What I didn’t realise is that Gloucestershire has the largest and fastest-growing network of Agri-Tech SMEs.

 I believe that government really must get a grip on the whole issue of farming subsidies and the production of food.

Clear, urgent policies are required.

Former newspaper editor, Ian Mean is Business West’s Gloucestershire director, a board member of GFirstLEP and former vice-chair of the Gloucester Heritage Urban Regeneration Company.

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