“Politicians should tread carefully. It is in Britain’s interest to maintain a strong farming industry at home and no government should take risks on food security”
The un-named FT journalist adds that farming is an uncertain profession, increasingly exposed to the challenges posed by climate change. That is why most developed countries, whether inside the EU or not, maintain public funding for farming communities.
As Ian Potter, specialist entitlement broker and dairy industry commentator, has said: no matter what the defence, the reality is that low farmgate milk prices are painful, and unsustainable.
Devinder Sharma’s words in Ground Reality refer to Indian agriculture but are universally applicable, “Providing the rightful income into the hands of farmers is what will push domestic demand and at the same time revitalize the rural economy”..
Scheherazade Daneshkhu, the FT’s Consumer Industries Editor, reports that the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has called for the end of direct subsidies, adding that the payments sometimes go to landlords, rather than tenant farmers..
Stephen Wyrill, TFA chairman, said the government should require public food procurement policies to favour homegrown food and to investigate the power of supermarket chains that are often blamed by farmers for squeezing their incomes.
August 9th is the date this year when the UK’s domestically produced food supply for the year runs out. The UK relies on homegrown produce for 60% of its food needs, down from 78% at its 1984 peak.
Some farmers are calling for more protectionism, including tariffs, while others favour softer measures such as improved labelling and educating children about farming and the countryside from a young age.
George Eustice, Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), has suggested that a government-backed insurance scheme should be put in place to help farmers to cope with weather-related disasters and a futures market set up to protect farmers against volatile commodity markets.
Meanwhile the much trumpeted British Farming Awards will go ahead blithely junketing as if British farming is thriving.