We are facing a second harvest in succession with grain prices volatile and well below the cost of production. The price of wheat has scarcely moved and doggedly remains £100 per ton below that realised 2011.
Last week the Farmers Weekly headlined, ‘Grain prices strengthen on weather worries’. Parts of Eastern Europe and Russia are dry, and heavy rain in the US has seen a slight improvement, but the movement is so far insignificant.
For the past twenty years British arable farmers have been exposed to global instability. Before that the UK and Europe were for some time, protected by the European Economic Economy, and later by the European Community. These sheltered producers and shoppers from global trade through tariff barriers, intervention buying and export refunds.
Today, as Richard King, Andersons’ head of business research said, “We are now at a free market level in terms of pricing in (some) agricultural commodities”. Successive rounds of CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) reform have stripped away all forms of protection, particularly in the grain markets. The situation is different for red meat sectors, where the EU still has import quotas.
It certainly has not helped British farmers market their produce, as the pound has strengthened 17 per cent against the euro since February, making British exports more expensive.
At times like these it helps not to have all ones eggs in one basket. Smaller mixed enterprises particularly those which have diversified and family run farms, can react with agility making them able to adapt to market forces, and enabling them to weather the financial storm.
Trooping the Colour on Saturday was as always a remarkable spectacle. No other nation on earth can put on such a dazzling, colourful display of precision, historic yet still relevant in today’s modern forces, pageantry.
Her Majesty looked radiant and certainly defied the fact that she is soon to enter her tenth decade, and will in July become the longest reigning British monarch.
The news that Des Lambert, the principle of Plumpton Agricultural College has been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours, for his ‘outstanding services to land based education and young people’, will be warmly welcomed by everyone who knows him, without exception. They will be delighted that this extraordinary, special and very modest man, who has dedicated the last forty years to developing Plumpton College, his students and to supporting the farming and local community in a wide variety of ways, has been recognised for his remarkable and very exceptional qualities and achievements.
Des’ career at the college spanning nearly forty years, is a unique record of loyalty and commitment in today’s world. Since becoming principle in 2001, he has overseen an expansion of student numbers, and supervised the increase in the range of subjects taught, and to a higher level.
He has devoted his time and skills primarily to the students, but at the same time, through his exceptional negotiating and business skills, has created one of the finest agricultural colleges in the country.
Des is admired and liked unreservedly by everyone who has the privilege of crossing his path. He has left his mark upon every student who has passed through the college, including those who are high achievers to those with learning difficulties. His passion for cultivating and encouraging young people to enter their chosen industry and to achieve the very best of their ability is legendry.
Under Des’ management the college farm has increased in size considerably. The building programme includes the new milking facility for the dairy herd, with facilities for teaching purposes. The equestrian department, wine making centre, and small and large animal care departments which have created a working and learning environment which is outstanding and equal to none.
Dr Robert Stanier, chairman of Governors on hearing the news of Des’ OBE said, “Des’ belief in inclusive and caring education runs through every fibre of the college. Having spent 30 years working in the education sector, I have never come across an institution where caring and the belief that anyone can achieve is so embedded in the culture as that at Plumpton College, and this is clearly the result of Des’ leadership.”
Dr David Stokes, Deputy Principal said, “This honour is exceptionally well deserved. Des has unfailingly supported young people in land based education at Plumpton since 1975. Since becoming Principal he has worked tirelessly to develop the College to provide an excellent training for students to enable them to enter employment in land based businesses. Amongst many other things Des has been a stalwart supporter of Young Farmers Clubs - he is truly the students’ champion!!!
Markus Saich a past student from the 1980s said on hearing the news, “One of the things that really made Des stand out in my day, was his passion for all things Agricultural. His modest good humour, his ability to remember every student, and to be able to teach by example makes him a truly unique individual, who has dedicated his life to furthering both agriculture and agricultural careers in Sussex and beyond”.
Carola Godman Irvine