AREVOLUTION in food production was emerging in the South West in 2009.

Agriculture was entering a new period of opportunity and farmers would have to work harder at producing more food.

That was the over-riding message at the Royal Cornwall Showground following the Agrivision 20:20 conference held in the pavilion in 2009.

Organised by Mole Valley Farmers and Clydesdale Bank, the one day seminar was supported by Duchy College Rural Business School, DEFRA and South West Regional Development Agency.

It brought together a panel of speakers to explore the underlying economic, political and technical issues challenging the UK farming industry over the next ten years.

Keith Ockenden, head of agriculture at Mole Valley Farmers said: “The general view is that agriculture is entering a new era of opportunity, where farmers will need to produce more food to feed the world. This is going to present many challenges for producers, most specifically as to whether farmers should be growing GM crops, increase farm size or take a collaborative approach to gain economy of scale. It is also evident that future EU CAP health checks will have to balance the increase in food production with the environmental agenda. Whatever the outcome, farming is on the threshold of a more promising future.”

Research scientist, Professor Mick Fuller of Plymouth University, said the need for a 50% increase in food production will inevitably spur the global development of GM technology to enable plants to cope with extremes of drought, heat, salt and cold.

“We need to reap the benefit of GM technology," he said.

"We have problems with wheat yields beginning to slow and society demanding we reduce pesticides without thought about food security in the future. Our mechanisation development has leveled off and the world’s arable areas are shrinking because of climate change and increasing population. We really cannot afford the luxury of being prissy on the development of agricultural production and GM crops.”

Economist Sean Rickard said the world’s food supply was unable to keep pace with demand, with warnings of a food crisis by 2030.

Affluent societies in the Far East were adopting westernised diets, eating more meat and dairy products. There was increased demand for land to grow not only food but energy crops.

“We shall see a return to industrialised farming with high quality, increased productivity and more efficient farming,” he added.

Westcountry MEP Neil Parish said CAP would survive after 2013 with the EU continuing to focus on good quality food production while at the same time protecting the environment and countryside.

Post 2012, the Single Farm Payment would be worth about 60 per cent to 70 per cent of its current value, with support targeted to grassland farming, environmental schemes and the uplands.

He said: “I envisage policies for biofuel and biomass production as well as a far greater emphasis on producing on-farm energy.”

Despite the current econimic crisis, John Powell agri-business partner of Clydesdale Bank in the South West, believed farming had a much brighter future.

“Why close down your most efficient factories, your farmers, when the need to produce more food is so important," he said.

"We cannot ignore GM technology but in feeding the world we must make sure that our production systems are sustainable,” he said.