As supermarkets insist they give a good price to the middlemen – processors – both deny responsibility for the fall in average price farmers receive for a litre of milk in the UK by about a quarter to 23p from almost 32p in mid-2014 – see today’s Financial Times. The FT continues: “About 260 of the UK’s 12,000 dairy farmers have sold their herds since January . . . many farmers are ‘out of pocket’ with the cost of production averaging about 30p a litre”.
Speak out at your peril
In January a linked site reported that, as 60 dairy farmers went out of business, the parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee, chaired by Anne McIntosh, urged the Government to intervene. It wanted the Groceries Code which covers suppliers to the big supermarkets and retailers, to be extended to include dairy farmers.
She was deselected.
State radio debunks the issue; EFRA minister Liz Truss, let them grow chillies, natural justice not on the agenda
No thoughts of natural justice appeared in the Oxford Farming Conference address of Liz Truss, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who refers to ‘the huge export potential of this industry’ and rejoices that ‘we now grow chillies which we export to Pakistan and Mexico’.
Placing the issue third after Angora goats and use of level crossings, the BBC gives priority to the destructive comments of the ‘sympathetic’ corporates’ economist, Sean Rickard, who tells dairy farmers that if they can’t manage under these conditions, ‘they should give up making milk and live off the subsidy’.
Arla processor blames the global market
Ash Amirahmadi, head of milk and member services at Arla, dairy middleman, dismissed attempts by the NFU to target retailers’ margins and blamed the farmers’ plight on the drop in the global milk price.
The knock-on effect to other industries and the rural economy
The Western Morning News reports that in an interview for BBC Radio 4’s On Your Farm programme, Princes Charles said: “I happen to think the small farmer, the smallholder, is absolutely crucial to the maintenance of food security . . .”. Jeremy Corbyn agreed: “There are some big issues to be tackled about how big supermarkets squeeze small farmers, and how this can knock on to the wages of agricultural workers or producers in sectors such as the baking industry . . . it is clear that something needs to be done to make sure that supermarkets pay fairer prices to small farmers without passing that on through higher prices for consumers.”
In fact, as a Lancashire farmer often points out, the whole rural economy is also affected as farmers lose income. Each working dairy farm returns a huge amount of money back into the wider economy, supporting many other regional businesses, and therefore helping to provide jobs for many. Each dairy farm that ceases to trade has a knock-on effect on the surrounding community and the economy, due to a loss of income to many other businesses. See press release.
Producers of perishable milk fruit and vegetables should learn from industry and combine
Factories do not sell their products at a loss, but those producing perishable food are often required to do so. Will vulnerable food producers ever learn from industry and combine? And would Jeremy Corbyn be prepared to enable and support this?
If not, what hope is there for those who produce perishable food?
Do governments “callously and deliberately neglect” food producers to avoid alienating corporate party funders?
Ms Truss, the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, says British farming is one of the Government’s key successes – though farmers are taking their own lives at a rate of one a week, according to many sources, though officialdom is reticent about this.
The Times of India reports that Maharashtra’s farmer suicide count in the six-month span from January to June this year stood at 1,300 cases, the state’s revenue department figures show.
Respected analyst Devinder Sharma points out that indebtedness and bankruptcy tops the reasons behind these suicides; followed by family problems and farming related issues. In both countries the authorities try to evade the real issue and blame the availability of shotguns, pesticides and so on.
Snapshots from a presentation to the UN summarises the real reasons:
British and Indian governments daren’t offend the party funding middlemen and corporate end-buyers who – without lifting a finger – profit from the food produced at the expense of the hard-working producers who are often obliged to sell at a loss.
More respect from the new Greek government
At least – the Financial Times points out – in Greece, Syriza is allowing some leeway to those producing the most essential goods. They are refusing to increase the financial burdens on farmers, who at present pay 13% per cent income tax, compared with the general 25% rate, and receive special treatment for fuel and fertiliser expenses.
With 12.4% of the country’s labour force employed in producing food and cotton and a thriving fishing industry, the new Greece government is showing some grasp of essentials and priorities – would that the British and Indian governments showed similar respect for their most important workers.