LUDWIGSHAFEN, GERMANY, November 8, 2011 – Consumers’ interest in agriculture and personal respect for farmers is high, even in countries where less than two percent of the population works in agriculture, according to the BASF Farm Perspectives Study, which surveyed 1,800 farmers and 6,000 consumers. Yet farmers and consumers also agree that farmers’ reputations remain low. The study, which outlines the way farmers and consumers view the farming profession, its challenges and its support network, revealed surprisingly strong agreement on major issues, including the role of farmers and the major challenges farmers are facing in the 21st century.
The study was carried out in Brazil, India, the United States, Germany, Spain and France in cooperation with the global market research firm Synovate GmbH and Professor Dr. Ulrich Oevermann, Professor for Sociology at the University of Frankfurt.
Both farmers and consumers view farming as a vocation, one that is dedicated to providing nourishment, supporting rural culture and caring for the land. “Steward of the land” or “Caretaker of the land” is farmers’ favorite self-description in all six countries (over 80%), but registers significantly lower with consumers (50-60%). In a related question, many consumers blame farmers for environmental problems, with concerns strongest in Brazil, India and France (38-43%), the U.S. and Germany (23%).
Introducing the study at the BASF Agricultural Solutions Press Info Day, Dr. Stefan Marcinowski, Member of the Board of Executive Directors, explained: “Many farmers take the consumers’ concerns very seriously and do their best to address them properly. For us this is an important finding since it clearly shows us where we can help farmers to overcome this gap with more sustainable products and solutions.”
21st century challenge: Feeding the world
Around 80 percent of farmers and consumers from all countries agree that farming’s primary objective is to feed the world. Even so, a majority of farmers believe that consumers do not understand the full dimension of the food supply challenge or the reality of farming. Agreement on the contribution of plant biotechnology was strongest among farmers and consumers in countries with high adoption of genetically-modified crops, such as India (76% of farmers and 62% of consumers), Brazil (78% and 29%) and the USA (53% and 25%).
Consumers show a high level of interest in farming (from 84% in India to 50% in France), but also admit that they do not know enough about farming to judge it properly. Although farmers also see an understanding gap among consumers, many (ranging from 40% in the USA to 74% in India) take consumers concerns seriously and say they should do more to meet consumers’ expectations.
Price an obstacle, little support for subsidies on environment
The price of food and, conversely, the price of conservation remain obstacles for both farmers and consumers. A large majority of farmers believe consumers are not willing to pay higher prices for food produced in an environmentally-friendly way. Though some consumers (30%) say they would pay higher prices, a slight majority in France, Spain, Germany and the USA would not. Subsidies are seen by both groups largely as a means to keep food prices low, especially in India (74%), Brazil (67%) and Germany (64%) rather than as environmental lever (around 30%).
Farmers believe that industry and consumers should do more to support agriculture: More environmentally-friendly products and representation in public from industry; better grasp of farming and willingness to pay for environmental benefits from consumers.
“These results are a clear message that farmers expect support on challenges that go far beyond their business success. At the same time, it’s also a signal to all of us, industry, consumers and policymakers, that we need to bridge the farm-knowledge gap and give growers broader support going forward,” concluded Marcinowski.
The press release is available at: http://www.basf.com/group/pressrelease/P-11-492