By Joe Dales, Farms.com
The BASF Farm Perspectives Study which was released last month analyzed the answers from 2,100 farmers and 7,000 consumers in seven different countries regarding their perceptions on topics related to sustainable agriculture, agricultural regulations, food issues, and agricultural technologies.
This comprehensive Farm Perspective Study was conducted in some of the world's largest agriculture countries including Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Spain and the United States between March and April 2014. For its realization, BASF commissioned the global market research institute Market Probe.
Here is a brief video that shows some of the interesting findings.
Here is a summary of the main finding of the Study:
Role of Farmers
In regards to the role of the farmer, the farmers (92,6%) and consumers (90,9%) both highly agree all over the world that ‘farmers fulfill a necessary function in society’.
Farmers are considered the main producers of food in all countries by both consumers (agreement: 88,6%) and farmers (agreement: 92,9%). In general, most consumers and farmers agree that farmers are also stewards of the land.
The report says "Farmers, however, are somewhat more likely to see themselves as responsible for protecting and caring for than land and the environment, if compared to consumers. The biggest gaps between farmer and consumer’s perceptions in relation to the role of farmers as ‘stewards of the land’ exist in Brazil (agreement farmers: 89% vs. agreement consumers: 55%) and France (agreement farmers: 92% vs. agreement consumers: 58%).
Consumers’ Attitudes towards Agriculture
Consumers care about agriculture. Across all countries they claim that they ‘care about sustainability in agriculture’ (global average agreement: 80,6%). However, when farmers were asked if they agreed that consumers cared about sustainable agriculture, they showed a high disbelief (global average agreement: 37,1%).
Consumers across all countries claim that they ‘understand the importance of farmers in securing the food supply’ (global average agreement: 75%). In contrast, farmers in India ( 64%), Spain ( 65%) and Germany ( 58%) tend to disagree with this statement.
While most consumers claim to ‘care about the problems farmers face’ (global average agreement: 69,9%), most farmers would disagree, saying that consumers have very few knowledge about their profession (global average agreement: 16,4%). Farmers in Spain (93%) and in India (82%) are most likely to feel that consumers don’t care about their problems. Consumers in France care the least about farmers’ problems (49%).
Globally, farmers find it easier to define the meaning of sustainability in agriculture than consumers do. They presented a more specific, although complex, understanding for the topic. Growers associated it with ‘soil protection’ (40%), ‘land use’ (27%), and ‘water use’ (27%, ‘fair farm wages’ (25%), ‘protection of biodiversity’ (25%) and ‘healthy food’ (23%).
Consumers worldwide tend to explain sustainability in agriculture in a narrow scope, describing it as ‘environmentally friendly’ processes (22%) and as ‘ability to produce sufficient food’ (18%).
The perceptions of ‘sustainability in agriculture’ differ heavily from country to country. Many farmers in Germany, India and China associate sustainability with ‘soil protection’. Healthy food, land use and water use are also mentioned, mainly by Indian and Chinese farmers. In Spain, India and to some extent in the US, farmers often associate sustainability with fair farm wages. In Spain and Brazil, farmers associate sustainability with biodiversity protection. For consumers, environmentally friendly food production and the ability to produce sufficient food are mentioned most frequently, although the definition varies depending on the country.
The current way in which the agricultural market is regulated puts pressure on farmers. Farmers tend to consider that there is ‘currently too much regulation in the agricultural sector’ (49%), although consumers are more inclined to think the opposite (38%) or they simply not know (17%).
When looking at the perception of agricultural regulations by country, the situation looks very different. Farmers in Spain (77%), France (83%) and Germany (72%) agree that there are too many regulations applied to the agricultural sector. A similar conclusion can be made for the US (60%), and to a lesser extent for Brazil (42%). The opposite is true in Asia: In India (54%) and China (54%), farmers find that there is insufficient regulation or that it strikes the right balance. Consumers tend to be more divided on this issue with many, particularly in China, Brazil and to some extent in India, feeling that this sector is under regulated.
Future Trends in Agriculture
Expected future trends vary depending on the country. Common themes across the EU countries include the ‘continued disappearance of small farmers’, ‘tougher regulations’ (except France) and ‘more sustainable agriculture’. Farmers in Spain and Brazil also expect ‘improvements in technology’; while farmers in India think they will have to cope with ‘water shortages’. In France, farmers also anticipate ‘reduced reliance on agrochemicals’. In India, farmers also refer to ‘climate change’ and ‘labor shortages’ as main trends for the next 5 years.
To find out about the background on the study visit the BASF website here http://www.agro.basf.com/agr/AP-Internet/en/content/news_room/Farm_Perspectives_Study_2014/background_information/index