Farmers face hardship Oct03
family has farmed here in East Anglia for five generations”, a Suffolk
farmer said to me the other day. “It has been a struggle for the last
five years and I cannot see how we can go on!”
hot weather in August has been good news for farmers as it has made for an
easier and less costly harvest without the need to dry the grain. Although
the yields may be down, the quality of grain is higher and should fetch
higher prices. With a higher wheat price due to lower global wheat
reserves and a weaker Pound against the Euro, British farmers will have
increased cash flows and profits for the first time in many years.
Government’s Annual Census indicates that there has been a slight
recovery in farm incomes over the last 18 months. Industry analysts have
suggested that an average farmer working 100 hectares of wheat, barley,
oil-seed rape and set aside would have harvested at a loss of £3000 in
2001, improving to a loss of about £250 last year and recovering to a
profit of about £14,000 this year.
this does not reflect the fact that about one thousand farmers file for
bankruptcy each year, resulting in the loss of 52,000 jobs last year.
Agricultural earnings have fallen by 70 per cent over the last ten years
and by a third in the past five years.
farming seasons mean jobs not only for farm workers, but all those who
supply farm inputs, lease and service farm machinery and transporters of
farm produce. Failing farms result in job losses not only on farms but in
towns and villages as well, forcing young people to leave rural areas and
seek employment in cities. These deserted villages and towns, populated
only by elderly citizens, in turn threaten the viability of rural shops
and services, including the local bank, post office, newsagent, chemist
and health clinic.
EU’s Common Agricultural Policy has resulted in over production, highly
inflated prices, inefficiency and, on the continent, outright fraud and
deception in submitting farm data. EU CAP reforms will gradually reduce
subsidies for production, forcing farmers to seek funding for improving
the quality of product as well as enhancing the rural environment.
farmers are reputed to be more efficient in producing both subsidised and
non-subsidised crops. They have higher costs for labour and better health
and safety standards to protect animal welfare. Under the reform package,
our farmers will be required to compete globally with foreign farmers not
subject to the same labour costs or stringent health and safety standards.
This will seriously undermine the competitiveness of our farmers and lead
us to be dependent on increasing our food imports from outside the EU.
order to survive, farmers are now having to strip assets, diversify into
forestry and tourism, offer direct sale to the public through farm shops
and merge with other farms to form bigger units. It is not surprising that
many families with small farms do not see the next generation working as