Friday, May 31, 2019

Defra pledges to cushion basic payment withdrawal

Defra has pledged to cushion the impact of the withdrawal of the basic payment against a background of concern about the mental health and well-being of farmers: Defra pledge

Defra’s own statistics show that 16% of farm businesses are already unprofitable – even while direct payments continue to be made. That would rise to 42% without direct payments, which the government intends to phase out over seven years from 2021.

Much emphasis seems to be placed on resilience, and farmers are resilient, perhaps sometimes too much so for their own good. However, resilience can turn into a resistance to adaptation to changing circumstances.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Spanish interlude

I recently spent a few days in the vicinity of Alcalali in the Jalon Valley in Spain which is roughly halfway between Alicante and Valencia. Farming in this area is focused on fruit and vineyards. Oranges are not getting a good return with competition from South Africa and it is sometimes hardly worth picking them: I saw 5 kilos of oranges for converting into juice offered at one euro and there weren't many takers. Almonds, lemons and avocados are among the other crops grown.

In many ways vineyards are potentially a commercial crop and I saw an extensive flat area planted with vines. I visited the cooperative in Jalon (aka Xalo, depending on the language used).

This was set up in 1962 and takes grapes from a radius of 15-20 kilometres, all organically grown. The plant is highly mechanised.

In some ways it was the marketing techniques that interested me. They have a very impressive shop, beautifully laid out, with a range of wines (and spirits). This generates 20 per cent of their revenue. It is possible to fill reusable plastic containers of wine for just a few euros and this is clearly a very popular offer. A very acceptable bottled white retails for just under three euros.

However, they do have high end wines at, for example, 18.5 euros. I saw a case of a dozen of these being dispatched to a purchaser in the United States. Once again farmers outside the UK show an ability to cooperate which is far less common here.