Monday, May 21, 2012

Have farmers less to whinge about?

Sometimes I think that Farmers Weekly should be called Whingers Weekly. Often it's the weather - too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet. Admittedly, it is a challenge in the UK's variable climate. Then it's often prices (where dairy farmers have real concerns) or late payment of subsidies. After that it's vegetarians, defenders of the badger and opponents of GM crops (both of the latter two go way over the top on many occasions). Or it's retailer power, and that's where I have real sympathy with farmers. Let's hope the new supermarket ajudicator makes a difference.

Anyway the NFU has launched a new campaign to boost the image of British farming. Apparently the president is going to emulate the Jubilee by going up the Thames in a farm themed boat to the House of Commons: Farming

Last year farming was one of the most profitable industries in the UK, lifting aggregate net profits 25 per cent to £5.7bn. Measured against other sectors only mining and oil saw bigger growth according to UBS, the investment bank. Of course, farming can have bad years as well as good and not all sectors are doing well, but it does lead one to wonder whether such large blanket subsidies are needed.

As NFU presiden Peter Kendall points out, modern farms make a great deal of use of ICT and 'It's now a high-tech industry, not the way it was 10 years ago.' Pardaoxically, consumers may like a more bucolic image, but then they also want a ready supply of cheap food.

The good times may also be over before they beagn. Farming is fossil fuel intensive and in the long run prices are likely to rise in real terms despite the current dip. Farmers do, of course, pay a lower level of duty on 'red' diesel (sufficiently lower to lead to its occasional illegal use). Supplies of grain are rising which is likely to depress prices. Turmoil in the eurozone may hit exports and the rise in the value of the pound will reduce the amount received in subsidies. However, demand for food is likely to continue to rise, pushing up prices.


Brett Hull said...

The first thing we need to do in order to get a sensible utilisation of the farming land is to stop those handouts from EU.

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