Grain prices seem to have steadied but not settled at a price which is as yet particularly tempting as it hovers between £140 and £150 per ton. It seems that most farmers are holding their nerve in the hope that the price will rally, perhaps on the back of some disaster befalling corn producers in other parts of the world. It’s a sad fact of life that we can benefit from others’ misfortunes.
Two years ago wheat reached £220, and two years previous to that it had slumped as low as £85. A vast difference with devastating effects upon the profitability of the farm.
Other than those having to sell at harvest due to lack of storage space, the word is out to sit tight. Certainly until the autumn and probably longer if possible. The industry considers the price has levelled off and should dip no further, but I am not sure anyone would put money on that.
It’s a funny old world when on one page of the Farmers Weekly a headline reads, “UK to face shortfall in agricultural land by 2030”. An article by Philip Case states that up to 7m more hectares of farmland will be needed to meet the demand for a growing population for food, space and renewable energy.
On the previous page we have a headline, “July date set for beef industry crises summit”. The farm minister George Eustice has invited representatives from the Beef industry to a meeting in London this week to discuss the decline in farmgate beef prices.
It appears that Mr Eustice is of the opinion that some beef producers are inefficient and could do better. He is also suggesting the idea of creating a voluntary code for meat processors, governing their relations with farmers. Such a code should stop processors changing specifications overnight. It will be interesting to hear the outcome of this meeting and how the industry responds to it.
There are a succession of differing messages coming from DEFRA and the industry at large. We must produce more food. We must setaside good agricultural land for ‘greening’, not food production, to protect the environment. And as the population grows relentlessly, people in China and India become more sophisticated in their diets, and crops are used increasingly for use in energy production, and we watch as corn prices tumble and likewise beef and potatoes. Beef prices are now 70p/kg lower than this time last year. If this keeps up British farmers will cut back on the number of cattle they run.
The good old potato is apparently being forsaken and we are instead eating copious amounts of rice. The British are becoming increasingly ‘Easternised’ and our diet has changed from meat, two veg and potatoes, to curry, curry and more curry!
The only good news in all this is that farmers who buy in feed for their livestock will presumably be paying less as grain prices decrease, but one cannot be certain.
The best and cheapest cattle feed is grass which this year is plentiful due to the perfect growing conditions. That is except for the farms which were flooded during the winter months. Traditional British beef breeds fatten well on low protein grass based rations but dairy crosses and continental breeds require more cattle cake and grain which when margins are tight, markedly affect the profitability of the enterprise.
The English footballers have slunk home leaving British fans who had travelled to Brazil to cheer them on and those at home who had stocked up with beer and decked out their cars with supportive insignia, feeling greatly disappointed and just a little deflated. It now seems our cricketers are not doing a great deal better, so our hopes are now firmly focused upon Andy Murray. He has the entire nation rooting for him and wishing him success, and hoping he can restore British pride.
Carola Godman Irvine