Category Archives: Imports
For many years international agencies have promoted a school of thought that says it is cheaper to import food than to grow it within the country, comments Devinder Sharma (below, right).
In December he told Rediff.com’s Syed Firdaus Ashraf:
“Rural Gujarat has voted against the influential ruling BJP. During the 2014 elections, Prime Minister Narendra D Modi had promised that if elected his government would give 50% profit over the cost of production as recommended by the (M S) Swaminathan committee and rural India voted conclusively for the BJP – but farmers are still waiting for the promise to be delivered”.
“The Reserve Bank of India’s governor used to say that the biggest reforms would be when farmers are moved out from the villages into the cities, because cities are need of cheaper labour. Cheaper labour is required for infrastructure, real estate and highways. In other words, agriculture is being sacrificed to keep economic reforms alive”.
Farmers need a fair price: cost of production plus
An article by Lancashire farmer, Kathleen Calvert, issued as a press release by local business, Dugdale Nutrition, stressed:
“Maintaining viable dairy farms not only protects livelihoods of farming families and others directly involved, it also makes a major contribution to local economies and the future of businesses, jobs, and families in the locality”.
Ruth and Richard Burrows, Devonshire farmers, assembled suppliers representing 3000 others whose livelihoods depend on them and other farmers. A photograph was published (right, faded newsprint, The web of rural ruin, Richard Price, Daily Mail, 23.9.99) with notes giving the names and roles of the people pictured. Mrs Burrows said: “They are living proof of the importance of the spending power of the farmer and how enormously important agriculture is in terms of the entire economic structure around here. The rural communities of Britain tick over on a system of mutual dependency of which the farm forms the hub. If it goes to the wall, dozens of ancillary trades in both town and countryside suffer”. Read more here.
Farmers organise politically in UK
As talks are under way at Stormont, William Taylor, speaks for Northern Ireland Farm Groups, which represents several food production sectors – now including the National Beef Association – and is concerned about the future of 25,000 SME family farmer businesses.
A bill, written by Daniel Greenberg, a barrister who specialises in legislation and is Editor of OUP’s Statute Law Review, is to be taken forward.
It proposes that farmgate prices in NI return to farmers a minimum of the cost of production, plus a margin inflation linked, that would give 20,000+ new jobs and prosperity across the province in towns, cities and countryside alike.
Their proposals have been well-received by several parties and unions, and Claire Sugden from Coleraine, Independent (the Justice Minister in the former assembly) told the farm groups that ‘she was of a mind to take legislation on farm gate prices forward’.
Legislation on farmgate prices for Northern Ireland according to the Gosling Report, would return 10-20,000 jobs+, save Stormont £280million+ in welfare costs and bring prosperity back to Northern Ireland.
In both countries, as Sharma comments, “What farmers need is income, a profit over the cost of production. To keep food inflation in control, successive government have denied farmers their rightful income”.
At the moment, due to imports, this country’s food security ratios are high – see map:
But 28,000 farms in England went out of business (132,400 in 2005 to 104,200 in 2015, DEFRA), many due to farmgate prices below production costs.
Meanwhile the AHDB advisers inflicted on them thrive, advertising for Sector Strategy Directors to be paid £62,000 – £76,000 for working 35hrs per week
The farmer drawing attention to this – who works far longer than 35 hours for far less return – comments “How easy it is to spend someone else’s hard earned income. An independent organisation (independent of both commercial industry and of Government)??”
A government website explains that the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board is a non-departmental public body funded by a compulsory levy on British farmers. growers and others in the supply chain.
It “has a role in the processes of national government and operates to a greater or lesser extent at arm’s length from ministers”.
AHDB advisers working half the hours at more than double the average farming income frequently offer sage advice: their mantra: “improve productivity”. The FT quotes reflections by Phil Bicknell, market intelligence director at the AHDB who sees only three options:
- The most desirable: securing a free-trade deal with the EU,
- The least: putting up protectionist barriers or
- opening up trade to low-cost competition from around the world.
Notably absent is any sustained concern about a fair price deal for food producers and the prudence of supplying the home market first before trading any surplus.
Between 2013 and 2015, according to figures from the House of Commons library, smaller producers left the industry and during that period, milk prices fell by about 30%.
The Gosling Report finds that for farmers in Northern Ireland the sale price for the majority of commodities they produce does not even cover the input costs; this applies equally to most other British farmers. Paul Gosling comments:
“Meanwhile, large processors, large corporate food wholesalers and corporate retailers continue to maintain their enormous unsustainable profits”.
Farmers in the rest of Britain in the same position should act with those in Northern Ireland. They require legislation similar to that submitted by Fairness for Farmers in Europe (an association of 30 farm organisations in Britain, Ireland and the EU) to the 2010/11 CAP review. This would state that farmers must be paid a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked for their produce; if the ‘free’ market moves up the farmer will get the benefit, however, when it falls the legislation is there to provide the safety net limit of drop.
AHDB please note: as a matter of urgency with Brexit negotiations under way, all farm groups could campaign for legislation on just farmgate prices, stating that a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked must be paid at the farmgate for all food produced in Britain.
Readers wishing to know more about NI Farms Groups’ campaign should contact:
56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU
Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624
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