Category Archives: Imports
Paul Simons adds to many ‘wakeup calls’ – writing about high temperatures, drought and wildfires.
May and June were also phenomenally hot across Portugal, Italy, the Balkans, Greece and Turkey.
Heat and drought have helped to fuel wildfires in Spain and Italy, and wildfires near the seaside resort of Calampiso in Sicily forced the evacuation by boat of about 700 tourists on Wednesday night. In Greece the heatwave led the culture ministry to close archaeological sites around the country, including the Acropolis in Athens.
Together with a long-running drought, the heat has ravaged much of southern Spain, leading to a devastated wheat and barley harvest. If the arid conditions continue, there are also fears for the olive, walnut, almond and grape harvests and the wellbeing of livestock. Rainfall has been desperately low this year, but the country has been suffering from a lack of rain for five years.
Drought threatens to reduce cereal production in Italy and parts of Spain to its lowest level in at least 20 years, and hit other regional crops. Castile and Leon, the largest cereal growing region in Spain, has been particularly badly affected, with crop losses estimated at around 60 to 70%. While the EU is collectively a major wheat exporter, Spain and Italy both rely on imports from countries including France, Britain and Ukraine.
Deadly heatwaves for much of South Asia – yet many of those living there will have contributed little to climate change
The Guardian adds to the news from Europe: India recorded its hottest ever day in 2016 when the temperature in the city of Phalodi, Rajasthan, hit 51C. Another study led by Prof Elfatih Eltahir, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, linked the impact of climate change to the suicides of nearly 60,000 Indian farmers.
The analysis, published in the journal PNAS, assesses the impact of climate change on the deadly combination of heat and humidity, measured as the “wet bulb temperature” (WBT). Once this reaches 35C, the human body cannot cool itself by sweating and even fit people sitting in the shade will die within six hours.
Prof Chris Huntingford, at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said: “If given just one word to describe climate change, then ‘unfairness’ would be a good candidate. Raised levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are expected to cause deadly heatwaves for much of South Asia. Yet many of those living there will have contributed little to climate change.”
Guardian journalists comment sarcastically, “But fear not: by 2040, no new diesel or petrol vehicles will be sold in the UK
This, apparently, is the appropriate timetable for responding to what a parliamentary committee calls a “public health emergency”. A child born today will be 23 by the time this policy matures – by then the damage to the development of her lungs and brain will have been done”.
According to Professor Eltahir’s study, if emissions are reduced roughly in line with the global Paris climate change agreement there would be no 35C WBT heatwaves and the population affected by the 31C WBT events would fall from 75% to 55%. About 15% are exposed today.
A National Geographic article says most people agree that to curb global warming a variety of measures need to be taken. On a personal level, driving and flying less, recycling, and conservation reduces a person’s “carbon footprint”—the amount of carbon dioxide a person is responsible for putting into the atmosphere.
At present, lorries shifting identical goods in opposite directions pass each other on 2,000-mile journeys. Competing parcel companies ply the same routes, in largely empty vans – a theme explored by MP Caroline Lucas and Colin Hines in 2003 – the Great Trade Swap.
It describes airports as deadly too – yet government and opposition alike are ‘apparently hell-bent’ on expanding Heathrow, exploring airport expansion projects elsewhere and seeking post-Brexit trade deals with distant countries.
To reduce the risk of ever more extreme weather, we must reduce the amount of fossil fuel we are burning – and the measures taken will have other desirable consequences as the following cartoon shows:
Parliament must listen to its Committee on Climate Change – chairman John Gummer. As the East Anglian Times reported in June, its annual progress report calls for “urgent” plans to meet legal targets for carbon cuts by 2032 as greenhouse gases from transport and buildings continue to rise.
The committee advocates action to bridge the gap between existing policies and what is needed to achieve required emissions reductions by the mid-2020s – boosting electric vehicles and cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the heating of homes to help to meet UK climate targets.
Is that news to anyone?
This site and others have been focussing on this appalling phenomenon corrupting governance for years, so much so that corruption of politicians and supporting media is no longer shocking: it is the norm.
As such, frequent news of revolving doors and rewards for failure has been under-reported on this site of late – despite many significant leads from regular readers – because these items just repeat our view of the state of the nation.
However the ever-eloquent George Monbiot is more persistent
He explains: “Dark money is the term used in the US for the undisclosed funding of organisations involved in political advocacy. Few people would see a tobacco company as a credible source on public health, or a coal company as a neutral commentator on climate change. To advance their political interests, such companies must pay others to speak on their behalf”.
Though corporate America was horrified by some of Donald Trump’s positions, especially on trade, once he had secured the nomination, big money began to recognise an unprecedented opportunity.
Monbiot continues: “Trump was prepared not only to promote the cause of corporations in government, but to turn government into a kind of corporation, staffed and run by executives and lobbyists. His incoherence was not a liability but an opening: his agenda could be shaped. And the dark money network that some American corporations had already developed was perfectly positioned to shape it”.
He looks into the historical background:
“Soon after the Second World War, some of America’s richest people began setting up a network of thinktanks to promote their interests. These purport to offer dispassionate opinions on public affairs. But they are more like corporate lobbyists, working on behalf of those who founded and fund them.
“These are the organisations now running much of the Trump administration”.
He then relates the story of MP Liam Fox
In 1997, Liam Fox founded an organisation called The Atlantic Bridge. Its patron was Margaret Thatcher. On its advisory council sat the future cabinet ministers Michael Gove, George Osborne, William Hague and Chris Grayling. Fox, who became a leading campaigner for Brexit, described the mission of The Atlantic Bridge as “to bring people together who have common interests”. It would defend these interests from “European integrationists who would like to pull Britain away from its relationship with the United States”. The Atlantic Bridge (link no longer informative) was later registered as a charity – only after it collapsed did the full story of who had funded it emerge.
Read the tedious and depressing details in the Guardian or on this site here.
How did Fox achieve this position, after the scandal that brought him down six years ago? Monbiot explains: “The man who ran the UK branch of The Atlantic Bridge was his friend Adam Werrity, who . . . carried a business card naming him as Fox’s adviser but was never employed by the Ministry of Defence, joined the secretary of state on numerous ministerial visits overseas, and made frequent visits to Fox’s office”.
The Charity Commission investigated The Atlantic Bridge and determined that its work didn’t look very charitable. It had to pay back the tax from which it had been exempted (Hintze picked up the bill) and the trustees shut the organisation down. Monbiot continues; “As the story about Adam Werrity’s unauthorised involvement in the business of government began to grow, Fox made a number of misleading statements. He was left with no choice but to resign”.
As the Financial Times reported, the election of Donald Trump transformed the fortunes of Liam Fox: he is back on the front bench, with a crucial and sensitive portfolio – Secretary of State for International Trade – an indispensable member of Theresa May’s front bench team: “The shadow diplomatic mission he developed through The Atlantic Bridge plugs him straight into the Trump administration”.
Taking back control from Europe means closer integration with the US
Monbiot adds that European laws protecting the public interest were portrayed by Conservative Eurosceptics as intolerable intrusions on corporate freedom and the transatlantic ‘special relationship’ is a relationship between political and corporate power. He ends with the following warning, sent by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938 to the US Congress:
“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism”.
Monbiot adds “It is a warning we would do well to remember”.
On BBC Radio 4 today it was reported that some supermarkets are limiting sales of fruit and vegetables.
A newspaper elaborates: “Morrisons and Tesco have limited the amount of lettuce and broccoli after flooding and snow hit farms in Spain. Shortages of other household favourites – including cauliflower, cucumbers, courgettes, oranges, peppers and tomatoes – are also expected. Prices of some veg has rocketed 40% due to the freak weather. Sainsburys admitted weather has also affected its stocks”.
HortiDaily reports on frost in Europe in detail (one of many pictures below) and the search for supplies from Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia.
A former Greenpeace Economist foresees these and more persistent problems in his latest book, Progressive Protectionism.
Alice Thomson continues: after Brexit there is a chance to redefine our relationship with the countryside. The system is skewed to the largest farms. Khalid Abdullah al-Saud received £400,000 last year in subsidies for his vast Juddmonte Farms, which breed racehorses. Such wealthy landowners are already benefiting from the inheritance tax exemption on farming land, and most don’t need the nearly £3 billion in direct subsidies from Brussels – mere pocket money.
Andrea Leadsom, the new environment secretary, said before the referendum that “it would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep and those with the hill farms do the butterflies”. But Britain should be going the other way, tapering payments so they promote small, innovative, often part-time farms to keep the countryside alive.
With the weak pound, supermarkets should be trying harder to champion local producers
In return farmers should be expected to become true custodians of the countryside – as many already are – planting more trees and hedgerows, helping with flood management, promoting good animal husbandry and richer soils.
Government’s penchant for relying on imported food involves increasing traffic flows, more congestion, more pollution, more road accidents, more calls for more motorway widening and more HGVs doing local deliveries clogging up roads.
Relying on imported food also reduces self-provisioning and self-reliance as impacts of climate change and overpopulation outstrip our ability to feed ourselves.
The Telegraph reported that in March more than 1,000 farmers travelled to London to urge the Government to do more to help Britain’s struggling farmers. Coachloads of protesters arrived in Westminster to take part in a march organised by campaign group Farmers for Action. The organisation says it wants the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to recognise that there is “a major problem” in one of Britain’s oldest industries.
“We can produce the best food you can buy. But we have to be able to make a profit. Currently that is not the case”.
David Handley, a dairy farmer in Monmouth South Wales who organised the protest, said: “We keep getting soundbites from ministers, saying they’re listening and have a 25-year strategy plan. But the majority of farmers here today want to know how they will get through the next 12 months. Falling prices across the industry are making production unsustainable. People cannot take this any longer”.
See the video, fronted by BBC Midlands Today news correspondent David Gregory-Kumar (left).
Low wholesale prices for goods including milk and cereal have caused income to plummet for many farmers across the UK. Growing competition from global markets and increasingly fierce supermarket price wars have intensified the problems.
In The Times, David Handley (Farmers for Action, below right) stressed that all sectors of the farming industry are under severe financial pressure and many are not even covering their costs of production and that this cannot be allowed to continue:
“The government shows no appetite to sort this out, merely issuing the occasional soundbite. When an industry gets in such a crisis we feel our government should lead from the front. We are not looking for handouts, but we need some answers.
“Do they want us to work in a free market, which is not operating a level playing field and the weakest producers keep going to the wall? Or do they really want British farmers to feed British people and also sell our products on the global stage – which would boost the productivity of our industry and also increase funds to the Treasury?
“If the answer is that we are to work in a free market, with no protection whatsoever from importation of products which do not meet our standards, then Mr Cameron has a moral obligation to tell the industry that this is the path he wishes to take and therefore farmers will be able to make a decision about their futures.
“If the answer is that he wants British farmers to feed British people, then he has to answer a number of questions:
- Is he going to provide a level playing field?
- Is he going to give all the tools necessary to play on the global stage?
If the answers are yes to the above then he has an obligation to step forward with a strategy that clearly tells British farmers it will be profitable for them”.
In a comment on this article, Phillip Cozens summarised:
The government presides over a situation in which last year we imported 70% of the food consumed in the UK. This is utter madness, strategically, environmentally, economically. Support for indigenous food production, with the realistic potential to be self sufficient, if the need arises, should again be a national priority. This is probably more important for our security than having a nuclear deterrent.
American blue collar workers are angry (The Times); Martin Wolf adds a growing and widespread sense that ‘elites are corrupt, complacent and incompetent’
Today the Times interprets unusual polling results in the United States. Like many American media commentators, it predicts that “blue-collar workers who are worried about the effects of globalisation on American jobs promise to shape the November election”.
In the Financial Times, analyst/economist Martin Wolf expresses a belief that the ‘native working class’ are seduced by the siren song of politicians who combine the nativism of the hard right, the statism of the hard left and the authoritarianism of both.
’A plague on both your houses’?
He writes: “The projects of the rightwing elite have long been low marginal tax rates, liberal immigration, globalisation, curbs on costly “entitlement programmes”, deregulated labour markets and maximisation of shareholder value. The projects of the leftwing elite have been liberal immigration (again), multiculturalism, secularism, diversity, choice on abortion, and racial and gender equality . . . As a recent OECD note points out, inequality has risen substantially in most of its members in recent decades. The top 1% have enjoyed particularly large increases in shares of total pre-tax income”.
David Cameron responds to church leaders’ attacks by saying that the reforms are part of a moral mission
Wolf continues: “In the process, elites have become detached from domestic loyalties and concerns, forming instead a global super-elite. It is not hard to see why ordinary people, notably native-born men, are alienated. They are losers, at least relatively; they do not share equally in the gains. They feel used and abused. After the financial crisis and slow recovery in standards of living, they see elites as incompetent and predatory. The surprise is not that many are angry but that so many are not”.
Wolf sees the electorate turning to ‘outsiders’ to clean up the system in Britain, the US and many European countries and advises ‘the centre’ how to respond:
- People need to feel their concerns will be taken into account, that they and their children enjoy the prospect of a better life and that they will continue to have a measure of economic security.
- They need once again to trust the competence and decency of economic and political elites.
- Disruptive mass immigration needs to be brought under control; refugees must now be the priority.
- There must be a fundamental questioning of its austerity-oriented macroeconomic doctrines: real aggregate demand is substantially lower than in early 2008.
- The financial sector needs to be curbed. It is ever clearer that the vast expansion of financial activity has not brought commensurate improvements in economic performance. But it has facilitated an immense transfer of wealth.
- Taxation must be made fairer. Owners of capital, the most successful managers of capital and some dominant companies enjoy remarkably lightly taxed gains.
- The doctrine of shareholder primacy needs to be challenged. With their risks capped, their control rights should be practically curbed in favour of those more exposed to the risks in the company, such as long-serving employees.
- And, finally, the role of money in politics needs to be securely contained.
Wolf concludes pragmatically: “western polities are subject to increasing stresses. Large numbers of the people feel disrespected and dispossessed. This can no longer be ignored”.
Self interest rules OK! The threat to the status quo is paramount – the ethical dimension totally ignored.
“If by some chance if you need food in another five hours then it’s time to implement legislation on farm gate prices, demanding a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked as a safety net at the farm gate, like that being proposed by the non-optional blue print for rural Northern Ireland agriculture”.
Concern is expressed at the announcement that the Larry Goodman owned ABP Group BP Food Group, headquartered in Ardee, Co Louth, but owned by way of a complex network of companies that include Parlesse and companies in Jersey, the Netherlands, and elsewhere, is about to take a 50% investment in Slaney Meats Southern Ireland, the other half owned by Linden Foods NI This is of grave concern to beef and sheep farmers in southern Ireland and across the UK.
The current take over, subject to the southern Ireland competition authority approval will, accordingly to Irish Cattle and Sheep Association, see the ABP Group having control of some 28% of beef processing in Ireland and 40% of sheep processing.
In short the deal will further increase the all-powerful dominant position of a small number of players in the meat processing sector in Ireland while beef and sheep farmers’ position trying to achieve a fair price will be further weakened.
In a press release, Farmers For Action UK NI’s co-ordinator William Taylor says, ‘beef and sheep farmers across UK and Ireland are at a crossroads of financial survival.’ It appears that as large food processors, large food retailers and large food wholesalers expand relentlessly, farmers are being increasingly forced to reduce their farm investments and activities due to reducing margins.
This will be a hot topic in the run up to the Northern Ireland’s local 2016 election where NI could be set to create prosperity, not only in rural NI but across the province, the Roosevelt way.
The living history site enlightened the writer. President Roosevelt’s advisors believed that the economic depression had been caused by an economic slowdown in farming and much of the New Deal was intended to help farmers.
One provision was the Food Security Administration which loaned money to tenant farmers (renters) at low interest rates. The FSA also built model cooperative farmsteads for farmers who had been forced to receive relief (now known as “welfare”). The loan program was the main effort of the agency and thousands of tenant farmers were able to stay on the land because of them. Many were able to earn enough ahead to actually buy their farms outright.
Another school history site added that the New Deal aimed to deliver relief, recovery, and reform—the so-called “3 Rs” and creating “an activist state committed to providing individual citizens with a measure of security against the unpredictable turns of the market”.
The Roosevelt approach is perceived by FFA UK NI and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA) as the only way for farmers not only to stay in business but to flourish by getting a fair deal against the might of the corporates.
William Taylor, FFA NI co-ordinator asks if anyone has an alternative not only on beef and sheep but across the staples. If so, contact him: 56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU; Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
The World Climate Change Conference in Paris is under way, attended by over 150 countries. In a message received today, from William Taylor, co-ordinator of Farmers for Action, Northern Ireland (second left, meeting on farmgate prices) writes:
According to Sir David Attenborough, Barack Obama and others there is still time to fix this, but only just and we must act now for the sake of our children and future generations!
Now we have the corporates, food wholesalers, retailers and processors in a corner.
How can they mention the word ‘green’ yet import New Zealand lamb during 2015 when there is plenty already here, purely for profit and to play off New Zealand farmers against UK farmers and vice versa. (Ed: see MP Caroline Lucas’: Stopping the great food swap: Relocalising Europe’s food supply).
How can they import beef even from Poland when there is plenty here already and so the list goes on – but no longer! FFA intend to hold the corporates and Westminster Government to account on their carbon foot print at every turn by exposing their green credentials for the pharisees that they currently are.
Furthermore, FFA would warn the Government about pointing the finger at livestock methane emissions (which are being improved on) which disperse in 20 years – while the corporate food world plays fast and loose with carbon footprints and the resulting CO2 emissions that take 200 years to disperse, purely for profit, with the Government’s blessing, while UK farmers go broke.
FFA are calling for the Westminster Government to introduce the pre-EU Isle of Man system, where regional produce, which must come from the nearest source, must all be used first and foremost before any is imported.
US cannot turn up at a climate change conference in Paris in full support and then agree to have the same food – eg beef – sailing to the US whilst another ship sails to the UK with the same cargo. This is but one example of the double standards of the UK Government and Europe on climate change that FFA are not prepared to tolerate!
Farmers For Action
56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU
Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624
Is the government export drive a good approach? Is its levy board, DairyCo, working in the best interests of the food producers compelled to fund it?
The ‘elephant in the room’ very few ever mention: unfair trade prices – though we hear that when the new Shadow Minister for Farming and Food is confirmed in post, one of his/her first tasks will be to look into the urgent need for farmers to get a fair deal for their milk.
‘Collapsing food prices’ were reported in the Telegraph -September, according to the FAO’s Food Price Index, which tracks wholesale prices of key foods. This is bad news for British farmers, many of whom are already being paid near or below production cost, which could force many to increase levels of borrowing this winter – or go out of business.
However, this basic cause of farming problems is ignored by vested interest dominated media and politicians, who point to energy prices, the need to export and global food oversupply – all less important factors than the farmgate price of food, to those producing for the domestic market.
A year after the 2013 dissatisfaction reported in the press, milk producers were asking for their levy money, imposed by law on dairy farmers, which funds almost all of the activities of DairyCo/AHDB, a body set up by government, to be used to provide information and resources to help support their businesses. This call is coming again, from several quarters.
Would AHDB Dairy pass a school-type inspection?
The Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) have issued a press release headed “Dairy Sector needs much improved levy board”, challenging the performance of AHDB Dairy (aka DairyCo) asking how it delivers value for money with the £7 million of farmers’ money given each year. This followed a recent meeting in which the TFA commented “if this was a school inspection our findings would be that AHDB Dairy required improvement and in areas was inadequate. We need to see a much improved board as soon as possible.” The full press release is interesting, click on
“The Board must be properly accountable to the dairy farmers who pay it not Government Ministers,” said TFA National Chairman Stephen Wyrill.
A ‘high-profile figure, quota broker and industry commentator’, Ian Potter, wrote that discontent among farmers over DairyCo had been brewing for months. In an Ian Potter Associates e-newsletter, he said emails from levy payers had been “flooding in” complaining about how their money was being spent, adding that all except one had called for “a change of direction and/or much more accountability”. DairyCo, which, Mr Potter recently noted, has received more than £1 million extra as a result of the increase in production, has already had AND SPENT the extra money. He asks: “But on what? Cynics say it spends the money on encouraging more production because that generates more levy money for it…and so on!”
Ian Potter states: “In my opinion we now need a campaign to promote the buying of British dairy products using British milk” – but DairyCo told the Radio 4 Farming Today Programme on the 13th August that it can’t promote British dairy products.
He ends: “I think farmers will want to know exactly why that is. I have heard one Tesco farmer would prefer to give his levy to Tesco if he could to help it promote British milk. That makes sense to me if DairyCo won’t!”
A farmer sent a link to a 2014 Farming Online article criticising the NFU and added the comment: “the NFU support big business too readily”. In it, farmer Guy Watson accused the country’s largest farm union of forming an “unholy alliance” with agrochemical manufacturers, and failing all but a small minority of large farmers, in a blog post and newsletter sent out in November. He said that he was increasingly alienated by the NFU’s ‘self-righteous lobbying for the short term interests of a small number of largescale farmers and their resistance to even the tamest environmental regulation, to public access to land and to any redirection of farming subsidies to encourage younger, smaller scale entrants to the industry’.
A Lancashire dairy farmer writes, “I have just come across this 2014 report, ‘Leading the Way’, among all the Dairyco info I have collected and to me it highlights all that is going wrong in our British Dairy Industry”.
This simplistic ‘Leading the Way’ report – amazingly lacking in substance – is available for download here. It states that an estimated 2.5% annual growth in global demand for dairy products over the next ten years will boost UK dairy production through increased exports and imports substitution.
Farming minister, George Eustice MP, said: There is huge potential for our dairy producers with growing international demand and a global reputation that is second to none. The government wants to support growth in the industry and ensure that we can both displace more imports and expand our exports.”
So as the call for fair trade prices is ignored and food imports – often of questionable quality – rise, government ministers, DairyCo and the NFU advise hardworking farmers to risk placing their ‘commodities’ on the global market so that internet-bound speculators can ‘make a killing’.
Note next week, Northern Ireland food producers and politicians meet
Accomplished farmer-negotiator, William Taylor, sends news of a meeting next week. One politician from each political party, including Independents, has been invited to come along, give their views on beef, cereals, lamb, milk, pigs, potatoes, poultry, vegetables, followed by a question and answer session.
This meeting will concluded with an explanation of the blueprint for Northern Ireland agriculture proposed by the above supporting farm organisations, which if put into legislation by Stormont would return Northern Ireland farmers a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked across the staples and turn Northern Ireland from austerity and crisis to prudent prosperity.
Dairy crisis: as corporations get millions in subsidy, ‘cleverer and richer’ economist Sean Rickard focusses on the small farmer
A Devon farmer wrote, after reading the latest on a linked site, “Did you hear Sean Rickard say that the average subsidy payment is £28,000?”
“At 80 ha I used to have the average sized farm, it may be a little more now. Last year we got £15k+. Stewardship brings it up, but not to £28k, and we have more stewardship than most.
“We all know the BBC is biased in favour of big business, but . . . I dare not challenge him in the press as he is cleverer than me, and richer, and would no doubt manage to prove he was correct”.
Many media outlets reported that Sean Rickard (left) told Radio 4’s Farming Today that dairy farmers were paid an average of £28,000 a year from the taxpayer, the Evening Times was one such paper. The farmer wondered whether he was lying.
He was not – just correctly assuming that most people don’t know the mathematical significance of the term ‘average’.
In common parlance, the average amount would mean that which most people would receive. Mathematically it means the total of all subsides paid out, divided by the number of recipients- a very different amount.
Rickard misled readers by failing to point out that many millions are paid to large landowners and corporates – see more information by clicking on the link to the table below. That is what brings the average up.
Our Devon farmer, in a farm ‘larger than many’, gets just over HALF of the amount highlighted by Rickard.
That is for environmental care given and, as our Lancashire farmer pointed out, to cover the shortfall in prices received which are below the costs of production.
Professor Gorringe, University of Exeter, in ‘The Common Good and the Global Emergency’ (albeit in 2011) said:
In fact farmers appear to be subsidising highly paid supermarket and processor executives – and their shareholders.