Another Lancashire dairy farmer (a few of her herd, right) responds:
Not only was the average price UK dairy farmers received for their milk in 2015 lower than it was when the MMB was abolished 24 years ago, but it was 24% lower, and that was before farm gate prices last year suddenly plummeted by 1/3.
No producer ought to be losing vast sums of money for their hard effort when producers are mainly exploited by those who can.
The cost of basic utilities and inputs required to produce that milk has risen:
- water has increased by 137% in the same period since 1994 due to companies being able to automatically raise their prices annually by the rate of inflation
- similarly the price of electricity over that period increased by 207%
- Animal feed costs up 58%
- fertiliser up 114%
- and diesel 224%
and that is another reason that the number of dairy herds in the UK has collapsed – as input pricing is so much out of kilter with the farm gate price.
A civilised world is one in which every person has pure drinking water – but about 3 billion people in total face insufficient supplies of fresh water and according to the United Nations that number is set to increase to half the world’s population by 2030. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that 40% of the world’s food depends on irrigation, which accounts for almost 70% of fresh water used.
Clive Cookson, Science Editor (FT) reported that more than a third of the world’s biggest aquifers, a vital source of fresh water for millions, are “in distress” because human activities are draining them. The problem is most serious in regions where rainfall and snowmelt cannot make up for water extracted for agriculture, industry, drinking and other human purposes. Scientists from Nasa, the US space agency, and the University of California, Irvine, analysed 10 years of data and published the results in the Water Resources Research journal. Jay Famiglietti, the study leader, said: “Twenty-one of the world’s 37 biggest aquifers have passed sustainability tipping points . . . they are being depleted. Over a third  are so bad that they are experiencing exceptionally high levels of stress”. Badly affected areas:
- the Arabian Aquifer System
- the Indus Basin aquifer of India and Pakistan
- the Murzuq-Djado Basin in northern Africa and
- California’s Central Valley.
Short-term and unjust solutions
Erica Gies reports in the Guardian that countries in the Persian Gulf are turning increasingly to international food imports after decades of depleting their groundwater. Israel is spending more of its limited water resources on industries other than agriculture, earning money to buy food internationally. Some countries are buying land in wetter countries to grow their food, a practice that can jeopardize local food security, environmental justice and human rights. A study last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is said to have found land grabbing inextricably linked to gaining water rights: 60% taken by the United States, the United Arab Emirates, India, the United Kingdom, Egypt, China and Israel.
47% of such land purchases occurred in Africa and 33% in Asia.
The Guardian has produced a useful summary of the ways in which water can be measured, conserved and used more wisely: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/sep/25/water-scarcity-drought-food-tech-california-israel