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Daily post Comment: Ploughing a lonely furrow.

THE farmer has long nursed a distrust of co-operation. Traditionally his biggest rival has been his nextdoor neighbour and in an industry where independence is treasured, farmers have resolutely ploughed a lonely furrow in the marketplace.

But in a sector where there are 230,000 suppliers - farms - and only half a dozen major retailers - supermarkets - the resulting imbalance has created a buyer's market.

So if safety lies in numbers, the answer would seem to be co-operation. But history tells us that farmers do not make good businessmen. Some co-operatives have faltered because they are poorly run.

Increasingly, sharp-minded farmers are turning to limited companies, run by professionals who understand business.

Yesterday Mike German, Welsh Rural Development Minister, acknowledged this when he opened Cwmni Cig Arfon's new pounds 1m farmer-owner meat processing plant in Caernarfon.

Everything is right about this important new facility for North West Wales. Around 260 local farmers part-own the business, bringing them much closer to the customer. With careful marketing, returns should be improved too.

Furthermore, for the 350 farmers who supply high-quality beef and lamb for local processing, wasteful food miles will be saved and transport costs slashed. Much of the credit must go to CCA's directors, who have carefully nursed the loyalty of their suppliers and ridden through the worst of BSE and foot-and-mouth.

Yesterday Mike German correctly said that a Welsh label was a guarantee of quality, but it is not a guarantee of success.

To succeed further, canny marketing is needed. But with sales already exceeding pounds 5m, Cwmni Cig Arfon seems to know where it is heading.

WHEN it comes to mixing it with the Ministry of Defence, the Government seems to develop a curiously yellow streak. Maybe it's something to do with the uniform.

First of all was the refusal to conduct a proper investigation into the Chinook crash on the Mull of Kintyre which the military bigwigs have always maintained, without any conclusive evidence, must be placed at the door of the dead pilots.

And now the government continues to reject calls for a public inquiry into the unsolved deaths of young soldiers at Deepcut barracks - and indeed others - where one is plainly cried out for.

Using the police investigation as a shield, they buy the Army line that the deaths were suicide, but there is not a shred of evidence to support this view, and plenty to suggest otherwise. Unless there is a proper independent inquiry, the suspicion of foul play and cover-up will never go away. This is a scandal in the making.
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Title Annotation:Comment
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 12, 2002
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