World food prices rose for a second consecutive month in September and is now approaching a record 10 year high. This is mostly caused by a global increase in the price of cereals and oilseeds. In the summer of 2020, Russia and Kazakhstan both constrained or even stopped completely their export of agricultural commodities. Further price rises have been spurred on by disruptive weather events around the globe which have reduced production. May, June and August were all well below the normal average sunshine hours in the UK which combined with the cold, dry April helped pin back grain yield in this country. As an aside, along with a lack of wind, this has really hit our renewable electricity generation. The energy and the gas supply problems that we are currently experiencing should make us stop and think about our nation’s security in energy and more importantly in food. Global grain production has been exponentially growing in line with population growth since records began. If climate change causes that link to be broken, our current government’s policy of importing more and more of our food looks decidedly dubious. If the public can panic buy the petrol stations dry and then start fighting over who gets what, just imagine what would happen over food. I do not want to see my grandchildren go hungry so I will keep raising this at every opportunity I get until those in power take a dose of reality. We cannot export our environmental footprint and rewild the UK whilst importing food produced to lower standards from some of the world’s worst factory farms. We need to find a new way to support farmers and protect the environment. The National Farmers Union and our excellent President Minette Batters have been in the spotlight a lot in the last few weeks. Firstly, over the lack of C02 for use in stunning animals to be slaughtered and its use in food packaging. C02 is a by-product from the production of nitrogen fertiliser. The huge hike in gas prices meant the fertiliser factories shut down production, so halting the supply of C02 and fertiliser. Consequently, the price of both commodities has shot up. Manufactured fertiliser is now double the price it was in June, that’s if you can even get it. Secondly, there has been the crisis in the pig industry. Contrary to the Prime Minister’s crass comments that pigs are going to be slaughtered anyway, it is a totally different matter if they have to be killed on farm for welfare reasons due to there not being enough capacity in slaughter houses caused by staff shortages. Farmers care deeply for their stock and many have spent a lifetime building up herds to provide good, wholesome food for us, not to go to an incinerator. All of this shows a government who does not seem to understand the fundamentals of farming and the food supply industry. This is why the NFU are now calling for the end of the current subsidy system to be put on hold until a new way of protecting our countryside and safeguarding our food supply can be properly prepared for, as they are doing in the devolved parts of the UK. The government’s new scheme for England has so far been lacking in detail and is failing to gain any traction with farmers. A recent study has shown levels of depression in the farming industry is at an all-time high. Although it talks about not been valued by the public, personally I don’t agree with that, but I do feel that we are totally undervalued by the government who would rather not have us at all. That is incredibly disheartening as we battle against rising costs and dramatic weather events. We need a new partnership, one that is built on mutual trust and we are currently a long way from that.
Meanwhile back at home we are doing our bit and the wheat for next year’s bread is now in the ground and just poking through, so we haven’t given up just yet.