Last month I suggested that UK and Scottish governments urgently need to look at ways to support fruit and veg growers to help them keep healthy food options available to the people who need it the most but buy it the least.

Another area which has been sorely neglected in most sectors of agriculture over the past 25 years is marketing and co-operation.

Apologies in advance for those of you who will find what follows a statement of the bleeding obvious, but it wasn’t one to me until recently. This summer, I asked John Pelham, of Andersons Consulting, to do a detailed business analysis of our soft fruit with my 19-year-old son, Tom, who is showing a keen interest in the soft fruit side of farming.

The results have turned out much as expected in general, but with some fascinating insights as well as a few glaring mistakes on my part which I will quietly draw a veil over if it’s alright with you.

The analysis did crystallise one thing we have always done intuitively, but perhaps not fully appreciated the significance of. Over the past 25 years, we have always sought out the shoulders of seasons, when the price for soft fruit has been historically significantly higher than it is in the main season.

John Pelham’s analysis shows that in horticulture, particularly, an increase in price increases profit up to three times more than an equivalent increase in yield. This is partly because increased yield has associated added costs, such as extra labour, packaging, haulage and so on which an increased price doesn’t have. It stands to reason that the same goes for other sectors of agriculture too.

Why, then, do we put almost all of our energy and research into improving yields when the same percentage of an increase in price is three times more valuable? Partly because we have some control over the business end of production, but next to no control over the price of what we produce. Nothing is written that it has to be that way, however.

First of all, the age-old brag about farmers being able to turn their hand to anything may be fine for activities on the farm, but perhaps not for selling – marketing people are experts just as much as doctors or lawyers are.

There are some notable exceptions, particularly in the proliferation of excellent farm shops and online butchers, but the evidence lies behind us – past decades strewn with growing big crops and raising great livestock and selling them for a tiny profit. Let the experts sell our produce for us.

Secondly, whether it is about reducing costs or achieving a higher price, we are so much stronger when we do these things en masse, be it sharing machinery that is becoming prohibitively expensive, or selling our crops. Otherwise we can be picked off at will by the processors, grain merchants, and packers.

I have tried to promote producer organisations (POs) on this page ever since I started writing here, but there seems to be a fatalism that it can’t be done, we grow commodities and will always be price takers.

I know soft fruit is not a commodity, but it is fast heading in that direction and I think there are things other farming sectors can learn from it. A PO has to market its members’ produce, either by doing so directly or it can appoint a marketing agent.

If it does so itself, it will have similar costs as those paid to the agent, yet possibly not have the expertise to get the prices achieved by a specialist marketing company. For instance, Angus Growers currently appoints Angus Soft Fruits as its marketing agent.

For the members of Angus Growers, the difference from selling to a processor or packer is that ASF charges a commission as a percentage of the price it achieves in selling the soft fruit to the multiples, which means that its (ASF’s) interest is in achieving the best price possible for the grower member of AG, the ownership of the fruit remains with the grower until sale to the multiple and the higher the price which ASF achieves the better for the grower.

This contrasts to the position if AG were to sell to a processor or packer where the interest of either of these would be to buy as cheaply as possible from AG in order to make a bigger profit for themselves on their subsequent sale.

Professional marketing groups can also add value and a significant percentage of soft fruit is now sold in premium lines at a higher price. The same goes for beef and lamb, but the producer never sees a penny of that.

If the commission-based model was used, the growers and producers would benefit as well as the packers and processors.

Even spring barley, Scotland’s biggest crop and a commodity if ever there was one, can have value added to it. Just look at the Milne family’s Crafty Maltsters business which adds value to a commodity by selling malted barley direct to brewers.

We all know the supply chains are not working for the farmer at the bottom of the pile. Let’s not be fatalistic about it, let’s form POs, employ professional marketing people, and explore ways to add value.

And never forget, three is the magic number – value is three times more important than yield.