Farming Update – October 2018

Figures from HMRC for the first six months of 2018, show that consumable food and drink imports to the UK totalled £23bn. Spain was the largest single exporter to the UK with produce valued at over £1bn. The largest individual products were beef from Ireland at £425m and wine from France at £321m. In all, we import products from almost 200 countries worldwide.

British Sugar and its growers have announced agreement on the contract terms for the next season. A one-year deal will give the 3,000 contracted growers £19.07/tonne with some improvement to terms and conditions. Processing of this year’s crop is about to start at the four factories.

The latest technical papers, released by the Government confirm the major adverse impact that a “no deal” Brexit could have on farming exports. The UK would need to be approved as an exporter of animals and animal products, a process that could take up to six months disrupting a market worth £3.15bn. Although similar approval would be needed by EU counties exporting to the UK, livestock farmers are concerned the UK will continue to allow the import market to run unhindered.

The Welsh Government has resisted calls for the reinstatement of the badger cull programme to combat the spread of bovine TB. The Government maintains that evidence shows most outbreaks were caused by cattle to cattle transmission. Farming leaders have criticised the decision as the number of cattle slaughtered continues to rise and point to a 50% fall in new incidents in parts of England where a culling programme has been running for five years.

A survey of recent land sales in England and Wales, shows that average prices fell by 0.7% in the period April to June 2018 and by 2% in the previous twelve months. Brexit uncertainty is dampening demand but the relatively small fall in prices is regarded as a good performance.

Arla, the UK’s largest dairy co-operative has announced a price rise of 1.09p/litre for its milk producers. This reflects a strong business performance by Arla despite a slowing in global commodity prices. Arla has raised its prices to producers by 18.5% since May 2018.

A continuing strong demand for poultry meat has led to a rise in bird numbers of 5% in the twelve months to August 2018. The UK is the fourth largest poultry meat producer in the EU and is 75% self-sufficient in the product.

The Agriculture Bill moves to its Second Reading setting out a range of industry and political views. The next step will see detailed amendments tabled and voted on. Aside from the environmental aspects of the post-Brexit subsidy regime, the industry is urging the Government to ensure that UK food production is profitable, safe and secure.

The June 2018 agricultural census figures from the Scottish Government show the long-term decline in cattle numbers continues and sheep numbers falling to a five-year low due to losses in the bad weather. The acreage of cereals fell by 3% with barley, wheat and oats all lower. The poultry sector fared better with a rise of 2% in bird numbers. The number of people engaged in agriculture fell slightly to 66,600.

The dry weather across the EU states resulted in a fall in cereal production of 5% compared to 2017 and 8% compared to the five-year average, leading to an increase in prices. Total production is expected to be 284m tonnes. Sugar production also fell but surpluses on the world market have kept prices low. Production of milk, meat and poultry have all shown a small increase.

The British Veterinary Association has responded to Government immigration plans with concern on how it will impact on the number of vets. Nearly half the vets registered in the UK come from other EU countries. For abattoirs the reliance on foreign vets is greater with 95% coming from overseas, mainly EU countries. The Government has indicated that EU citizens will no longer receive priority under the new rules.

Sales of second-hand machinery, in the third quarter of 2018 were the highest for four years at over £11.3m, according to leading auctioneers. Interest from overseas buyers was strong with sales worth £3m going to Spain, Portugal and Southern Ireland.

Dairy Crest has guaranteed the current milk price, to producers will apply, as a minimum, for November, December and January production. Muller has also announced an unchanged rate for November, the third month running.

The exchange rate used to calculate the value of payments made to UK farmers under the Basic Payment Scheme has been confirmed at £0.8928, being the average sterling/euro exchange rate for September. The rate is 0.2% lower than last year and is seen as a good deal by farmers. The funding for the scheme will come directly from the UK Government, post-Brexit and is likely to be phased out by 2027.

Reproduced with kind permission from NIG FarmWeb