Category Archives: Interdependence

Seeking food supplies from Turkey and Morocco?  Time for change!

On BBC Radio 4 today it was reported that some supermarkets are limiting sales of fruit and vegetables.

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A newspaper elaborates: “Morrisons and Tesco have limited the amount of lettuce and broccoli after flooding and snow hit farms in Spain. Shortages of other household favourites – including cauliflower, cucumbers, courgettes, oranges, peppers and tomatoes – are also expected. Prices of some veg has rocketed 40% due to the freak weather. Sainsburys admitted weather has also affected its stocks”.

HortiDaily reports on frost in Europe in detail (one of many pictures below) and the search for supplies from Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia.

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A former Greenpeace Economist foresees these and more persistent problems in his latest book, Progressive Protectionism.

Colin Hines reminds us that in 2014 the UK supplied just over half (54%) of its food supply. The EU was by far the next largest supplier at 27%. It is clear that we depend on Europe to keep ourselves fed. He adds:

“At present the UK can only feed around 60% of its present population of 65 million, let alone the around 8 million extra projected in the next 15 years. The UK’s food vulnerability could worsen for a number of reasons. The global availability of the food supplies that the UK at present imports could be dramatically reduced, due to rapidly rising global demand, particularly from Asia; or increased domestic demand from the countries that we at present import from; or if we are unable to afford whatever the global prices might rise to”.

And, presciently, “the threat to UK food security could be more serious should increased global demand combine with other potential problems such as climate change”.

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A 2013 report from the UK government’s official climate change advisers warned that droughts could devastate food production in England by the 2020s. Hines advises: “The answer has to be to heed the Sustainable Development Commission’s call ‘to produce more food from less land and to eat differently, specifically to eat more plant-based foods, less meat and dairy, and to waste dramatically less”.

To this he adds the need to halt as rapidly as possible the UK’s population growth, by curbing present levels of migration and reducing it to more sustainable levels, bearing in mind the numbers we will be able to feed predominantly from our own resources.

Finally he focusses on another area of import dependence.  A 2007 study, ‘Can Britain feed itself?’ by Simon Fairlie, estimated that it could, but that the dietary changes would be significant, “including far less meat consumption, feeding livestock upon food wastes and residues; returning human sewage to productive land; dispersal of animals on mixed farms and smallholdings, rather than concentration in large farms; local slaughter and food distribution; managing animals to ensure optimum recuperation of manure; and selecting and managing livestock, especially dairy cows, to be nitrogen providers”.

Time to ‘retool’ our provisioning?

“UK agriculture is also reliant upon imported energy, fertiliser, seeds and machinery. So should the availability of such imports become limited because of purchase by more affluent countries, or were we to become unable to afford to purchase such imports in the quantities required, then our domestic agriculture itself would be deprived of such essential inputs”.

And, essentially,  give our food producers – from farmers to small-holders – a fair price covering costs of production plus.

 

 

 

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East and West: food commodity prices plunge & farmers are denied a legitimate income

East and West, successive governments have ensured that the farmers alone carry the economic burden of keeping food inflation low. Forget about profit, farmers are actually being penalized to grow food.

Though India-focussed, the words of Dr Devinder Sharma (below) in APB News apply equally to all but the largest landowning farmers in the east and west.

“Peter is being robbed to pay Paul”

dev youtubeDenying income parity with other sections of the society has made farming a losing proposition. In the absence of a fair level of income, many farmers have been pushed into a mounting spiral of debt in an effort to survive.

The suicide death dance long witnessed in Britain and India, taking a heavy toll of farming families, is a reflection of the economic hardship that farmers undergo for no fault of theirs.

Denial of a legitimate income to farmers: Sharma asks

  • Why should farmers be penalized for keeping food inflation under control for people whose pay or pension rises annually?
  • Why can’t the average consumer also share the burden of keeping food prices low?
  • Why is farming the only section of society in the country which is being deprived of its legitimate income.

Drop in prices is destabilising agriculture – east and west

Today, the FT reports that in Pakistan, where more than 60% rely directly or indirectly on farm incomes, farmers’ incomes have fallen more than 25% in the financial year to the end of June, according to projections by the country’s central bank. While partly due to a global plunge in commodity prices, critics say the problem has been exacerbated by the failure of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government to step in with support, and that the latest incentives for farmers are inadequate. The volume of Pakistan’s cotton crop has crashed by almost 30%. “The main issue has been a major drop in prices of crops,” Abida Hussain, a farm owner and former MP, told the Financial Times. “To stabilise agriculture, a way has to be found to deal with that fundamental issue.”

Kathleen CalvertEnglish dairy farmer Kathleen Calvert, and others, emphasise that payment which covers production costs and overheads should be the norm for food producers.

She adds that if food producers are not fairly paid it has a knock-on effect on many small rural businesses and affects their families and surrounding communities.

She makes further globally applicable points about small and medium sized family farms:

  • they provide a level of food security and community enterprise that is pivotal to local community support systems in the event of natural or manmade disaster;
  • they are centres of topographical knowledge and skills gained through individual experience that cannot be learned in a classroom environment or from a text book;
  • they are our greatest national asset as they strike a balance between nurture and neglect of the land;
  • and they provide local employment and business opportunities for a range of small suppliers of goods and professional services where different levels of income and assets spread wealth back into local economies rather than concentrating it and removing aspiration from the reach of ordinary people.

She would surely agree, as Sharma points out, that the money put into the hands of farmers will not only promote the security of future food supplies, but generate wider demand – the pre-requisite for industrial and manufacturing prosperity.

 

 

The family farm: ‘On the eve of destruction’- Farm Groups lobby for prosperity in Northern Ireland

In the period leading up to May’s election, farm groups are asking all parties and independents to add legislation on farm gate prices to their manifesto; this would require a minimum return of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked across the staples for Northern Ireland farmers, giving a huge welfare saving of more than £280million and more than 20,000 new jobs and prosperity across the province in towns, cities and countryside. If in receipt of a proper return for their produce, farmers buy goods and services from – on average -123 different suppliers on an on-going basis, including 5-10 tonnes of steel per annum, which would make a huge difference to the UK steel industry.

NI Farm Groups have established that this is a devolved matter and further investigations have indicated that it is legal all the way to Brussels and to go to the polls with these proposals would surely be a vote winner for any party or independent, not to mention the prosperity that would follow for Northern Ireland.

FFA and NIAPA started to meet all the political parties and Independents in the wake of the Gosling Report, which makes the case for legislation on farm gate prices by Stormont as soon as possible. In it, Paul Gosling clearly states the prosperity, jobs and welfare savings that legislation on farm gate prices would create for Northern Ireland. The full report, ‘On the eve of destruction’, may be read here.

WT2 TUV meeting(Pictured l-r Michael Clark, chairman NIAPA, Sean McAuley, FFA Steering Committee, Jim Allister MLA & William Taylor, FFA UK NI co-ordinator).

At the first meeting with MLA Jim Allister (Traditional Unionist Voice, TUV), the farm groups put forward their proposals and William Taylor, FFA UK NI co-ordinator, commented: ‘The TUV leader proved to be well informed about just how bad things are down on the farm and is considering his parties support for this proposal very seriously indeed’.

wt declan mcaleer sinnfeinFarmers For Action and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association met a Sinn Fein delegation, including MLA Declan McAleer (left) at Stormont. Sinn Fein, including Minister O’Neill, have been good listeners on this issue for the last two years as it has evolved. They have asked plenty of questions, all of which, to date, have been answered. It would appear from their interest that they are very supportive of the idea, providing they can convince their members that it would work.

No other solutions available

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Northern Ireland Farm Groups, Farmers For Action and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA) representatives met William Irwin MLA and Chair of the Agriculture Committee at Stormont (above) on the issue of Democratic Unionist Party support for legislation on farm gate prices across the staples to be put in place after the election.

William Taylor stated, “William Irwin is a farmer himself, with his son at the coal face and doesn’t need told just how bad things are down on Northern Ireland farms and furthermore, that NI’s young farmers and their families are not going to wear the current situation much longer before changing profession!” By the end of the meeting the conclusion was that there were currently no other solutions available and that the DUP would continue to consider the legislation proposal by the Northern Ireland Farm Groups.

Representatives of Northern Ireland Farm Groups met Harry Cullen, Chair of Northern Ireland Conservative Party and Roger Lomas West Tyrone Conservative representative.

William Taylor said “the meeting was an excellent opportunity to hear the official Conservative position on Northern Ireland including their free vote on Brexit decision by PM David Cameron. Roger Lomas had attended the Northern Ireland Farm Groups packed farm gate price crisis meeting in Cookstown last Autumn alongside many other politicians and was an excellent contributor – no stranger to the proposal for legislation on farm gate prices blue print”.

As he said: “Consumers have protection from supermarkets, why shouldn’t farming families have the same protection from the supermarkets?”

wt conservativesAnimated group: Roger Lomas, NI Conservatives West Tryone, Sean McAuley and William Taylor Farmers For Action and Harry Cullen, Chair of NI Conservative Party.

“Harry Cullen proved to be exceptionally well informed about Northern Ireland politics from a to z and didn’t need told about the consequences of allowing family farmers to continue leaving the industry and the need for legislation on farm gate prices proposal to be explored, nor was he under any illusions about the ability of farmers to make a country wealthy when they are receiving just reward for their labours.”

A fully briefed MP

WT ian paisley meetingThe NI farm Groups met MP Ian Paisley (Democratic Unionist Party) at his Ballymena office. Sean McAuley, FFA Steering Committee Member stated, “We found Mr Paisley fully briefed on the Gosling Report and the non-optional blue print for rural NI, put together by FFA and NIAPA . . . and very aware and deeply concerned about the current farm gate price crisis across the staples. Mr Paisley volunteered his input and help going forward and made it clear his door was open and his help was available, and insisted on being kept informed”.

Meeting representatives of the Social Democratic and Labour Party at Stormont

Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association and Farmers For Action NI met SDLP representatives in order to gather further support for legislation on farm gate prices in Northern Ireland. On arrival they had the opportunity to meet with the new SDLP leader Colum Eastwood initially along with Alex Attwood.   After they left the meeting to continue with Stormont business, the meeting continued with a very interested Sean Rogers.

wt sdlpPictured l-r: Fearghal McKinney, Deputy Leader of SDLP, Sean Fitzpatrick, NIAPA, William Taylor, FFA and Sean Rogers, SDLP Agriculture spokesperson.

William Taylor FFA co-ordinator concluded that the SDLP are taking the disastrous financial situation in rural Northern Ireland very seriously indeed. They spent a lot of time asking questions and getting to understand how legislation on farm gate prices in Northern Ireland would work across the staples to return a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked to family farmers for their produce. William Taylor and Sean Fitzpatrick are hopeful that SDLP will back the case for legislation on farm gate prices after the election and perhaps make the case for it in the run up to the election, citing the new jobs it would create, the welfare savings and the prospect of increasing prosperity in Northern Ireland.

Members of Northern Ireland Farm Groups met MLA Claire Sugden (Independent) based in Coleraine.

wt 2 claire sugdenClaire has to date been a good friend to NIAPA and FFA’s call for legislation on farm gate prices in Northern Ireland to return a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked. She attended our packed public farm gate price crisis meeting with many other politicians in Cookstown last November where she made her fellow MLA’s sit up and take notice by announcing that she was minded to put forward the proposal for legislation in Stormont after the election providing she gets the votes to return to Stormont. This latest meeting with Claire left the members of NI Farm Groups in no doubt of her commitment to this pledge, nor any doubts about her being a very well informed politician.

NIAPA and FFAUK (NI) met UKIP representatives to ask for their support in their manifesto for legislation on farm gate prices.

“As Europe and Northern Ireland farmers descend into poverty there is no good reason why Northern Ireland cannot be first to come up with the solution,” said Sean McAuley. Mr McAuley continued, “We got a good listening ear from UKIP and they asked all the right questions and gave us the impression that legislation on farm gate prices could be on their manifesto especially with its potential for thousands of jobs, welfare savings of close to £300million and prosperity that will follow for Northern Ireland.”

Northern Ireland Farm Groups held a meeting with the Alliance Party’s Agricultural representative Kieran McCarthy.

wt cllr tim morrowKieran is retiring in May and brought along Councillor Tim Morrow whom Alliance hope will succeed him if elected. The Farm Groups were delighted with the interest taken in the legislation on farm gate prices proposal. Michael Clarke, NIAPA Chairman stated, “Tim Morrow is a farmer himself and witnesses every day the punishing financial environment that Northern Ireland farmers are currently trying to operate in.” He continued, “Councillor Morrow asked all the right questions as the project was new to him and was given the best answers available, leaving him plenty to think about and, we hope’ to consider the possibility of putting it in Alliance’s manifesto, backing the push for legislation immediately after the election.”

Vernon Coaker, the Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary of State, meets NI Farm Groups in Belfast.

wt vernon coakerSean McAuley, FFA Steering Committee stated that Mr Coaker showed great interest in both the Gosling Report and the Non-optional blueprint for rural Northern Ireland and therefore the pluses of legislation on farm gate prices for Northern Ireland. Mr Coaker was aware that Jeremy Corbyn has a keen interest in things rural. The Farm Groups painted the picture for Mr Coaker, of how all family farmers across GB as well as Northern Ireland have the potential to return prosperity to the UK should they be receipt of a proper return for their produce, as when farmers have money they purchase goods and services from many suppliers and prosperity ripples outwards.

The meeting concluded, therefore, by demonstrating that Northern Ireland had nothing to lose and everything to gain by putting in place legislation on farmgate prices after the election, in the hope that it could be a shining example of prosperity across Northern Ireland’s towns, cities and countryside alike, then hopefully to be followed by Scotland, Wales, England and Southern Ireland.

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Approximately 18 months ago Farmers For Action (FFA) and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA) met a representative of each of the four main churches in Northern Ireland, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Church of Ireland, and the Samaritans which proved ‘enlightening’. The farm groups have now decided to invite all Christian denominations directly to a summit meeting to see if they can persuade them to encourage parishioners to vote for the party/parties or independents in their area who will pledge to introduce legislation on farm gate prices immediately after the election.

Contact NI Farm Groups: William Taylor (FFA UK NI co-ordinator), 56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU, Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624 Email taylor.w@btconnect.com

Fair trade: Northern Irish, Scottish and now English/Welsh food producers are lobbying politicians.

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Farmers For Action are holding an ‘all-sector’ march in London on Wednesday 23 March 2016 to represent the farming industry – with pig farmers, horticulturists, dairy farmers and other food producers.

david handley 5Spokesman David Handley says “we are still in conversation with processors and retailers alike and are delivering a very strong message most of what we are having to do in respect of London has been brought about by them and obviously the lack of any leadership from the current government”.

Regular readers will know about the negotiations undertaken by Farmers for Action in Northern Ireland, which include a recent meeting with Jim Allister and other MLAS.

On Thursday, the Scottish Farmer reports, political leaders were speaking – and listening we hope – to farmers and crofters at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh highlighting the importance of farming to the rural economy and to the whole nation.

fdf scots demoA crowd of more than two hundred heard from NFU president Allan Bowie, before being addressed by the Deputy First Minister, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Scottish Conservative leader, Scottish Liberal Democrats leader and Scottish Labour spokesperson. Bowie said:

“The unanimous message given by Scotland’s leading politicians to farmers today is that they recognise that farming matters and that the rural community matters. We want those words to translate into actions and when party manifestos emerge in the next few weeks, issues relevant to farming, food and the rural economy must be front and centre.

“But politicians must also address our dysfunctional supply chain. At a time when Scotland’s food and drink sector is growing in value, returns to the farm gate have fallen two years in a row and are set to fall again. For the farming community standing here today, we want to be part of the Scotland food and drink industry success story but the fact we are continually failing to get a fair margin needs to be addressed.

“The Scottish public want us to keep producing food, supporting local economies and delivering the fantastic landscape that Scotland enjoys. It is now up to Scottish Government to meet its own deadlines on delivering vital support and all political parties to ensure their manifestos will take the Scottish rural economy forward.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney came out on to the Holyrood courtyard to tell the farmers that he was “acutely aware” of the crisis facing the industry. “This is the right place to express your views. We hear you loud and clear,” he said.

“While we have robust political debate inside the chamber, all political parties agree that food production in this country is an absolute priority,” said Richard Lochhead, minister for rural affairs. “Helping out our food producers in their hour of need, whether that’s because of the issues we’ve had with payments or the weather, or because of low market prices, we have to do what we can to make sure that the skills you represent and the jobs you sustain and the support you give to Scotland is maintained going forward.”

Good words. But many are asking when British people will be able to put fairly traded milk in their Fairtrade coffee after a fairly traded breakfast.

 

Farmers march to ask government if they want farming to continue in Britain

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Farmers For Action are holding a march in London on Wednesday 23 March 2016 to represent all sectors of the farming industry – pig farmers, horticulturists, dairy farmers and other food producers.

They will appeal to Government to back British agriculture. “We’re not going there asking for money,” said David Handley FFA). What we want is for Government to decide if they want farming to exist in the UK or if they just want food from anywhere in the world.

“We’re importing vast quantities of produce into this country which could easily be grown by UK farmers.”

As this is the last sitting of parliament and also the last Prime Minister’s Questions before the Easter recess, MPs will be in London and – hopefully – support this event.

This will be billed as a “celebration of farming” and they are keen that the event promotes, to the general public, why farming is so important to the countryside and the wider economy. The event will also be an opportunity to convey some key messages about the challenges currently being felt by many farmers in all sectors.

The march will assemble at Waterloo Place, SW1 at 11.00 am, and then make its way to Trafalgar Square where there will be media and press calls, and where food producers can talk to the general public and hand out various marketing material including Red Tractor, etc.

They will then continue straight down Whitehall to Downing Street where a small delegation will be given access to No 10 Downing Street to present a letter to Rt Hon David Cameron outlining their concerns for their industry and the failure of his Ministers to represent farming interests and the lack of power given to the Grocery Code Adjudicator, amongst other issues.

All sectors of the farming community are urged to come and join FFA on 23 March 2016 in a show of unity, sending a very strong message to the government that they will not allow their great industry, which is the backbone of the UK, to go down the same route as the coal and steel industry.

On www.farmersforaction.org, and Facebook Farmers4Action, there is information about coaches that are being provided for transport to the capital from various parts of the country.

For further details contact FFA on 01291 690224/07710 640567 or e mail secretary@farmersforaction.org

Agriculture on the agenda: Paris Climate Conference

America’s US National Public Radio website carried an article by Alastair Bland, Carbon Farming Gets A Nod At Paris Climate Conference”

las canadas4 farmingCourtesy of Ricardo Romero/Chelsea Green Publishing: Las Cañadas (above) is an ecological cooperative in Veracruz, Mexico, working to sequester carbon and mitigate climate change while producing food, materials, chemicals and energy.

It is reported that – for the first time – world leaders at the 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference have made the capture of carbon in soil a formal part of the global response to the climate crisis.

The United Nations Lima-Paris Action Agenda is aimed at “robust global action towards low carbon and resilient societies.” Countries, businesses and NGOs signed on to a series of new commitments under the agenda, including several on agriculture. André Leu, president of IFOAM, an organization that promotes organic agriculture and carbon farming worldwide, said, “This is a game changer because soil carbon is now central to how the world manages climate change.” Read in detail: Iowa Farmers Look to Trap Carbon in Soil and the rest of Bland’s article.

A different priority:

Northern Ireland’s farmer-negotiator William Taylor adds a warning to governments about pointing the finger at livestock methane emissions which are being improved on. He makes the point that these disperse in 20 years – while the corporate food world plays fast and loose with carbon footprints purely for profit, with the Government’s blessing, and the resulting CO2 emissions from the export and import of food take 200 years to disperse.

WT 2 and FFA-NI

Speaking on behalf of Farmers for Action NI, he calls for the introduction of systems like that in the pre-EU Isle of Man system, where regional produce, which must come from the nearest source, must all be used first before any is imported.

Referring to the wasteful and polluting food swap practice, he says that it is not logical for the US to support a climate change conference in Paris and then continue to have the same food (for instance, beef) sailing from UK to the US whilst another ship sails from US to the UK with the same cargo.

Some Americans agree with William:

nrdc logoThe National Resources Defense Council is an environmental action group, combining the grassroots power of more than 2 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of nearly 500 lawyers, scientists and other professionals. The New York Times calls NRDC, “One of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups. From a report on their website:

And by buying local, it means that your food isn’t traveling long distances by planes, trains, trucks, and ships, which all consume energy and spew pollution that contributes to global warming and unhealthy air quality. Plus you get the added benefit of what many chefs are saying is fresher, better tasting food on your table!

Boosting soil carbon? Minimising transport of produce?

Both are valid and important strategies.

Strength in unity for Northern Ireland farmers: England, Wales and Scotland please note

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Earlier we reported that Farmers For Action and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (above, planning) had invited one politician from each political party, including Independents, to give their views on beef, cereals, lamb, milk, pigs, potatoes, poultry, vegetables, followed by a question and answer session. Farmer-diplomat William Taylor (FFA-NI) sends this press release.

Legislation on Farm Gate Prices

At the end of October Northern Ireland Farm Groups Farmers For Action and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association came together to host a meeting in Cookstown.

ffa mtg audience

Over 200 farmers attended to have their say with Northern Ireland’s politicians from all parties, including independents, in the run up to the May 2016 local election.

The meeting heard the politicians give their views on agriculture, the EU and legislation on farm gate prices which would ensure farmers in NI a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked across the staples.

The question and answer part was lively and delivered to the politicians the scale of the current farm gate price crisis in Northern Ireland across the board and the meeting concluded with 2 votes:

  • the first, staying in the EU which was 60%/40% to leave.
  • the second was do NI farmers support legislation on farm gate prices to stem the food corporate relentless pillage at the farm gate. The vote returned an overwhelming majority – yes vote!

The Tyrone Courier‘s detailed account gave the names of some of the politicians, including Mid-Ulster UUP MLA Sandra Overend; Roger Lomas for NI Conservatives; Independent MLA Claire Sugden from the East Londonderry constituency; East Antrim Sinn Fein MLA Oliver McMullan; the SDLP’s agriculture and rural development spokesman Joe Byrne and Alan Love of UKIP. There was no-one in attendance from the DUP. The press release ends:

NIAPA and FFA would like to extend their sincere thanks for the support of the politicians – a variety of the province’s politicians who came and blew the cobwebs off Northern Ireland politics and the great turn out of over 200 farmers who came to find out why it will be so important to vote in May 2016 for legislation on farm gate prices.

William Taylor, 56 Cashew Road, Macaque, Colerain, BT51 4NU, Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624 Email taylor.w@btconnect.com