Farming Update June 2018

Global wheat production is forecast at 748m tonnes for the current year, down 11m tonnes on last year’s record crop. Consumption is forecast to exceed production for the first time in six years, driven mainly by increased demand for food production. The forecast has had little impact on prices.

Currently, petrol in the UK contains 5% bioethanol (E5) and MPs and petrol companies are calling for the introduction of E10, with 10% bioethanol to help cut emissions. E10 is widely used on the Continent and accounts for most petrol sales in the USA. The UK has the capacity to expand production using feed wheat not destined for the food chain, but the Government seems reluctant to move ahead.

Higher tariff levels for the Renewable Heat Initiative have given a boost to the production of renewable green gas through anaerobic digestion (AD). The industry has welcomed the move and forecasts that up to 40 new AD plants could be built over the next two years.

Dairy Crest has announced a £75m investment in its creamery at Davidstow, Cornwall with the aim of processing an additional 200 million litres of milk each year. This additional capacity is part of the plan to increase cheese production by 40% to 77,000 tonnes to meet rising demand.

A new report on the UK dairy industry shows it to be 3rd largest milk producer in Europe and the 10th in the world with sales of £8.8bn at wholesale, accounting for 15% of the agriculture sector. Progress in the last decade includes a 24% reduction in greenhouse gas, 85% of plastic milk containers being recycled and waste going to landfill reduced from 35% to 4%.

The EU is proposing some reform of the CAP post-2020 that will give limited flexibility for member states to adapt farming policy to their own individual needs. However, central control of the funding remains so as not to distort competition in the single market.

Demand for UK pork and offal products in the Asia and Pacific regions continues to increase. Exports to China exceeded a record £75m, last year, with rises to the Philippines and South Korea of 40% and 26% respectively. The exports are supported by strong marketing activity.

The Government has announced further measures to combat the spread of bovine TB. Testing and compensation payments will be increased, and badger culling will be allowed in Low Risk Areas if they are directly linked to infected herds.

Organisations representing the whole of the food chain, from farmers to retailers have joined together to produce the UK Food Chain Manifesto. The document is an appeal to the Government for positive outcomes on trade, labour, regulation and domestic agricultural policy, post Brexit.

Latest figures show that exports of British food and drink rose by 5.5% to £5.2bn in the first quarter of 2018. The growth in exports to EU markets was strong at 8.2%.

Leading farming organisations have called on the Government to sort out the problems with countryside stewardship schemes. Poor administration and payment delays of up to nine months are putting participation in the schemes at risk. As old schemes come to an end, farmers are finding it difficult to sign up for new ones putting many years of conservation at risk.

The EU has announced more details of the CAP budget for 2021 – 2027. The budget is forecast to be €365bn with priority for small and medium sized farms. Direct payments over €60,000 will be reduced and capped at €100,000. Member states will be required to allocate 30% of funds to climate and environment measures.

A committee of MPs has issued a report of the impact on the UK of leaving the EU. It calls for farm funding to be ring-fenced with more detail on how the mechanism will work. The committee wants to see environmental and welfare standards maintained on all imports and a farm productivity plan produced by May 2019. The report is generally welcomed by farm leaders.

The milk processors Muller, Meadow Foods and Dairy Crest have all announced increases in the price they pay to their producers from July. The increases take the price to around 28p per litre with the processors citing a strengthening in dairy markets as the reason.

NFU Mutual has again highlighted the theft risk associated with Land Rover Defenders and other luxury 4×4 vehicles. Production of Defenders ceased in 2016 and they are increasingly targeted to be stripped for parts with claims costs rising by 14%. Expensive Range Rovers have been recovered from containers at docks and as far afield as Africa and the Far East.