Why the Prince of Wales has got it right life

Jan 2 2003

By David Lloyd, Daily Post


RECOGNISING the Prince of Wales' deep concern for farming and the countryside, most farmers would have welcomed the news that he has been voted the Farming Personality of the Year.

The Prince has been a passionate champion of British agriculture in his public utterances and in private letters to Prime Minister Tony Blair.

But one farmer, who also happens to be the Prime Minister's farming adviser, has branded him as unrealistic and having a romantic view of the countryside.

This is Lord Haskins, who having toured the countryside in the wake of the foot-and-mouth crisis urging farming to grasp the opportunity for reform, is now tasked with carrying out a review of rural ministry Defra.

He chided the Prince for suggesting that public bodies should be encouraged to buy British produce as protectionist and that Britain's farmers and growers must compete equally with foreign producers.

The Prince has had the temerity to suggest that buying British need not breach European Union competition rules.

"Do you think the French give their armed forces anything other than French products?" he asks in an article for Farmers Weekly.

"Not on your nelly. It's high time we started interpreting the rules like other EU countries do, which is to look after themselves first and the EU second."

The Prince also sees the sense of the UK remaining relatively self-sufficient in food at a time when global situations can change very unexpectedly.

And that, he suggests, is also something retailers need to consider.

Continuity and accessibility of supply are important at a time when the world faces increased risks from terrorism and political instability.

Is this recognised by Lord Haskins? After many years in charge of Northern Foods, he must be aware of the interests of the major food retailers.

He also knows that the Prime Minister and Defra ministers favour fair dealing and partnership throughout the food supply chain.

And of course he will be familiar with the recent House of Commons study which accused food retailers in Britain of being greedy and creaming off huge profits, leaving both farmers and consumers poorer.