Export: the long-standing political answer to the problem of low farm gate prices

A summary of Michael Hart’s reply to views expressed by MP Neil Parish in the Western Morning News & the Conservative home website. Read the full account here.

michael hart 3Neil Parish was once a farmer but now, like most MPs, is out of touch with real life in saying the way forward for UK dairy farmers is to export – the long-standing political answer to the problem of low farm gate prices in all sectors, not just here but worldwide.

Rather than looking at and dealing with the real cause of the problems, the answer is always, “it’s all your fault as farmers for not exporting more, for failing to take advantage of new markets in countries like Russia, China, India and Brazil”.

Sub-headings:

In order to compete on world markets you need to have a lower cost of production than the other supplier countries, so how are we going to compete in such a market?

  • Australasian and south-central America will import from their neighbours.
  • More on China, Brazil and Russia
  • Middlemen benefit from exports – farmers don’t
  • Will producers reduce their margins and pay a fair price, above the cost of production? 

His conclusion:

While I agree there may be a possible export market for speciality cheese, for example, it is for the few, not the many who cannot compete on world markets due to their production costs. I suspect that government will fail to help dairy farmers with real solutions claiming it can not do so, due to WTO or EU rules or that it can not interfere with the “market” when in fact it is afraid of the large companies who control the food chain at the expense of both producers and consumers. And indeed to do so, would fly in the face of the current thinking by governments that big or better still even bigger is best and small is in-efficient and out-dated, that food should be cheap and that, like all governments worldwide, they see export markets as “the answer” for farming’s low farmgate prices.

Michael is a sheep and beef farmer in Cornwall, and also an ex dairy farmer. He has travelled widely, speaking on and researching agricultural issues.

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