News from the farming market – September 2017

In a twist to machinery thefts a telescopic handler was stolen and subsequently used to rip out an ATM cash machine from a nearby petrol filling station. Similar thefts and attempts have been reported by other rural police forces.

To expand the services it offers to members, the NFU (E&W) has purchased an agricultural energy consultancy, FEC Energy. The company provides advice to farmers on buying and selling of heat and electricity, energy generation and its efficient usage.

UK exports of beef, lamb and pork rose 18% to £582m in the first six months of 2017. Whilst two-thirds of exports go to EU countries, the growth of exports to other countries is strong, new deals with China and the Philippines will add £234m to the export total with further new sales likely to come from the USA and Africa.

The CLA has called for vehicles to be seized as part of a tougher package of penalties for fly-tipping as a survey of members shows two-thirds have been affected. Figures from Defra for 2015/2016 show that the 2,135 prosecutions represent less than 1% of incidents reported with only 129 vehicles seized and 77 fines of more than £1,000 imposed. Incidents are predicted to increase after steep rises in tipping charges in counties such as Oxfordshire and Somerset.

Farming leaders have warned that the recently leaked proposals for curbs on migrant labour could have an adverse impact on the agriculture and horticulture industries. Migrant labour is essential, across all skill levels especially where UK workers have been reluctant to take the jobs.

The culling of badgers in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset is set to resume to prevent a recovery in badger numbers in areas where culling has operated for the last four years. This latest programme will last for five years. The move has been welcomed by farmers who perceive that the culls have led to a reduction in TB outbreaks.

Despite August being a traditionally quiet month on the wholesale dairy markets, UK butter and cream prices rose by 13% and 14% respectively, reaching their highest levels since records began in 2000. Prices for both commodities have risen by 90-100% in twelve months. Prices across Europe have shown similar increases, driven by global demand.

The Food Fraud Report 2017, issued by NFU Mutual shows that 33% of consumers are less trusting of food products and retailers than they were 5 years ago. Of those surveyed, 72% believed there is a problem with food fraud in the UK and 90% do not trust foreign food chains.

UK fruit and vegetable exports rose by 17% and 13%, respectively, last year to totals of £116m and £109m. However, they were dwarfed by imports of vegetables at £2.3bn and fruit at £3.6bn. Almost 60% of imported vegetables and salad crops came from Spain and the Netherlands. Imports of fruit came mainly from Spain (21%) and South Africa (11%).

There are calls for a core UK policy to be developed for subsidies, after Brexit. The aim is to stop any “subsidy war” breaking out between the devolved administrations resulting in undercutting in areas such as sheep and beef prices. Scottish politicians have already criticised the idea as limiting their authority amid growing tension with Westminster.

New legislation is to be introduced that will mean that tractors capable of speeds of more than 25 mph and used for commercial haulage will be subject to roadworthiness testing. The testing will apply to tractors used further than 15 miles from their base. Tractors taxed as “agricultural” will be exempt.

The money owed, by Scottish farmers, to banks has risen by 5% to £2,32bn over the last twelve months according to figures from the Scottish Government. This amount, which excludes hire purchase and leasing agreements, is the highest since records began in 1972. It is thought that delays in subsidy payments caused by long-running problems with the IT system are a factor.

Plans have been announced to restart the badger vaccination scheme, in spring 2018, in areas surrounding TB “hotspots”, together with a new advisory service for farmers. In addition, badger culling has been extended to a further eleven areas including parts of Wiltshire and Cheshire making a total of 21 cull areas.

Early results from the sugar beet harvest show both high yields and sugar content. The end of EU quotas, this year and higher prices led to a 33% increase in acreage. The four processing factories are expecting to handle a near record (1.45m tonnes) crop.


Reproduced with kind permission from NIG FarmWeb