President's Blog - 23 September 2019

The North American/European Union agricultural conference, held every two years, is not only an opportunity to share views between Europe and America, Canada and Mexico but also to explore the host nation’s industry writes President Andrew McCornick.

This year’s host, Denmark, is a country of food and farming where 61% of land is cultivated and there are many stock farms producing meat, dairy and fur. 

Denmark has a population of 5.7 million and yet produces enough food for 15 million people.  As a result, export and trade are important to the Danes. Production is efficient with a low use of resources.

The major food enterprises are all built around farmer owned co-operatives like ARLA, and this can deliver a fast response for adapting to new market conditions and regulatory changes all the way from primary producer to consumer. 

This model of production is based on farmers treating each other as colleagues rather than competitors.

I saw all this in action in Denmark’s impressive fur industry. 

Fur production, primarily mink, is legal in Denmark and is a high value industry.   There are more than 3 million breeding females, all kept in cages in specially designed buildings. The 1100 fur producers are in a cooperative, fur is the third largest livestock sector in Denmark and is produce to the highest of standards of welfare. 

Perhaps surprisingly, NGOs do not have much impact on mink production in Denmark. 

Mink producers have an impressive sustainability story on climate change as 100% of a mink is used. The fur is used in fashion, the tanneries remove fat from pelts and use in biodiesel production, the carcases are processed into meat and bone meal and used as fertiliser. 

The feed for mink is made of waste from fish industry. 

Fur has a long life of 30 to 40 years and is biodegradable, unlike a large part of the modern fashion offering and which is coming under scrutiny for its climate impact and waste.

The pelts are auctioned in Copenhagen at the world's largest fur auction rooms, also part of the cooperative. All pelts are quality controlled before sale and can be sold in batches of up to 8000. 

There are fashion designers working on new uses and methods of using fur, even collaborating with other sectors like embroidery to create new demand. They are supplying high ends brands like Louis Vuitton and Dior. 

They even supply a manual for manufacturers to develop their designs in their own way, sharing knowledge. Copying is not a problem as it stimulates demand. 

All of this is done within the cooperative, which is a member of the Danish Agriculture and Food Council (equivalent of our union)

Regardless of your views on fur, this is a great example both horizontal and vertical integration.  The sector is coming together and delivering all the way to existing and new markets.   The extract every ounce of value out of the market they can, giving feedback to producers on what the market wants and delivering both up and down the chain. 

Scottish farmers need to identify ways of applying this to our commodities and changing them to product with added value.

We can go fast alone or go farther together. 

Author: Andrew McCornick

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Andrew Moir

1672 days ago

Perhaps an obvious question Andrew- why do the NGOs have little impact on fur trade in Denmark? Andrew.
Andrew McCornick 1671 days ago
Andrew They are very open in what they do and have regular veterinary visits to validate the welfare credentials. There seems an acceptance that farmers are doi g the right thing
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About The Author

Andrew McCornick

Andrew, who is married with three sons and a daughter, was born and brought up on a dairy farm in Wigtown. Andrew and wife Janice farm their 230+ ha unit with 160 suckler cows and 600 breeding ewes with a small herd of pedigree Charolais cattle. Andrew's sons farm a nearby tenanted unit which frequently provides replacement breeding stock for Barnbackle. For as long as Andrew can remember, he has been a member of the Union, and got more involved when the consultation for Nithsdale NVZ came out. From there he went onto become vice chairman of the Dumfries branch, and then onto his previous role of Regional Board Chairman for Dumfries and Galloway. He also sat on the LFASS committee. Andrew was elected Vice President in February 2015.

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