Free range turkeys retailed at £7.50/kg, and the producer on average received £5.50/kg. Some best-selling products for the retailers are sausages, bacon and cheese. However the vegetables on our plates on Christmas day on the whole have cost little more than when they left the farm.
The New Year promises to be difficult and above all unpredictable, for all farming enterprises. It is the not knowing which makes our job particularly difficult, and regrettably I did not receive a crystal ball in my stocking!
Dairy farmers continue to struggle as milk cheques shrink daily and reduced prices have already taken its toll on beef farmers. Grain prices have improved slightly, but forward selling for the 2015 harvest is still a gamble. Spreading ones bets is probably the best option, but it is a guessing game.
The good news for everyone is the drop in fuel prices. Red diesel is down 17p/litre over the year and is still falling. It looks like Opec could allow prices to drop as further 50 per cent a barrel; this should be reflected in future fertiliser prices and other oil based products, but time will tell. The effect on oil producing nations and companies is no doubt less joyful and no doubt will be addressed before long.
The General Election in May could lead to considerable changes in agricultural policy. Whoever gets into power is going to be faced with some very difficult choices. The Conservatives have been talking tough on the economy but as the election draws closer are acting soft. As a consequence the tax base has been narrowed, and the tax collected is under budget.
The public are becoming increasingly cynical and distrusting of main stream politicians, which is reflected in the rise of the SNP, a party well left of Labour, and of UKIP which is becoming increasingly difficult to fathom out.
At a time when strong leadership of the country is vital, it would appear increasingly likely that the next Parliament will not be in a position to deliver.
Last week ambulances were stacked up waited outside the Royal Sussex Hospital for hours, trying to unload patients into the already full to bursting A & E department. The press seem keen to blame hospitals and the ambulance services across the country for the current problems, but I think they should turn their attention elsewhere.
The NHS services are doing a grand job with the resources they have; the problems they are encountering are manifold. Hospitals do not have enough beds in A & E or general wards, mainly due to bed blockers.
The wards are full of the elderly who should not be in hospital. They should be at home with their families or in nursing homes. Families on the whole no longer care for their aged Ps, and nursing homes’ ability to ‘care’ for the elderly and dying is limited. They are generally short staffed, and the derisory minimum wage paid for this important specialist work is a scandal. The drop-out is high through low morale, bad backs and illness, due to long hours, heavy lifting and stressful conditions.
Ambulances should be called out for real emergencies, not for minor injuries, or as happens frequently, to lift elderly who have fallen out of bed or off a chair, who are unhurt. Valuable ambulance and paramedic time is used to help these poor people, where a quick response team on bikes or cars to pick them up, would save the NHS time and money.
Ambulances and A&E departments having to deal with the excesses of alcohol and drugs in city centres is a complete nonsense. If these irresponsible people faced a hefty fine for using these services, perhaps the culture may change. The NHS was not designed to pick up the pieces of this disgusting uncivilised behaviour.
Too many people call ambulances for minor problems. Too many people walk into A & E when they should be visiting the Pharmacy or GP. And too many elderly are abandoned in hospitals taking up valuable beds needed for the sick. These problems are caused by us not the NHS.
Our elderly should not be sent to hospital to die, this natural process should take place at home, or at least somewhere they are truly cared for, not in the corner of a busy ward where the staff have little time to tend to their needs in their final days.
I believe 2015 could be a better year if politicians would understand that it is not they but those who work in the community, the NHS, in commerce, industry, education, and agriculture who really run the country and know how things should be done. The first party leader who takes this on board in time for the General Election, will reap his rewards. An unlikely scenario but one we should wish for.
I wish you a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.
Carola Godman Irvine