Rising costs and intense downward price pressure in the vegetable sector should be a warning to the rest of agriculture, NFU president Peter Kendall told the AGM of the union's Lincolnshire county branch last week.
"Profitability has fallen dramatically, input costs have soared, excessive retail promotions are depressing farm gate prices and production has been volatile following last year's severe winter and dry summers," he said.
He described as "little short of a national scandal" the fact that the UK is only 60 per cent self-sufficient in vegetable production.
"The trade deficit is widening all the time. The sector is being driven to its limits and is evidently not coping with the strain. It's clear that a critical point will soon be reached, where, if nothing changes, we will simply see a greater proportion of the UK horticulture sector given up to imported produce," he warned.
Among the lessons for the rest of farming, he said: "The main one is that price volatility is an ever-present risk and we need to be in a position as far as possible both to moderate it and mitigate its effects so that short-term shocks are not allowed to cause long-term damage."
Peter Kendall stands unopposed as candidate for NFU president for 2012-14.
Kevin Attwood and Paul Temple will challenge incumbent Meurig Raymond for the role of deputy president. Ashwood and Temple are also among the seven nominees for vice-president.
Nominees will now take part in hustings in each NFU region before elections at the union's AGM on 22 February.