The latest forecast for
Total Farm Income (TFI) for the United Kingdom for 2018, produced by Defra,
shows a fall of £861 million (or 15 per cent) compared to the actual figure for
2017, while the industry’s contribution to the national economy falls 6 per
Despite a slight increase
in gross output, the release says that the output of key crops fell as a result
of the hot, dry summer and that the resulting increase in prices failed to
offset the overall fall in production. At the same time costs of inputs
including fuel, feed and fertiliser all rose over the same period.
As the figures are a
forecast, detailed information by sector, such as vegetables, horticultural
crops and potatoes, is not yet available. The final figures released for TFI in
2017 showed a real terms increase of 45 per cent.
Photo Credit: Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs
Defra has pledged to
maintain current levels of funding for recognised producer organisations (POs)
until the end of the current parliament following Brexit.
The announcement means that
the government will take over the £35 million of funding, which is currently
provided via the EU Fresh Fruit and Veg Scheme until 2022. The funding will
continue to be matched by growers in the 33 UK POs.
NFU Horticulture and
Potatoes Board chair Ali Capper said that she was delighted by the news, adding
it would provide “much needed clarity and certainty for the grower-members of
producer organisations which sell 50 per cent of all British fruit and veg.”
Photo Caption: There
are 33 producer organisations in the UK.
Defra has received more than 44,000 responses to its consultation on farming, food and environmental policy after Brexit. 20,000 of these were received in the last week of the process.
The consultation, which closed on Tuesday 8 May attracted responses from farmers, NGOs and others in direct and indirect support for farmers, environmental protection and even the strategic importance of food to the UK. During the consultation process Defra also held 17 events across the country with stakeholders including the NFU, National trust and others.
The Agricultural Industries Confederation said the Government’s drive for environmental enhancements as part of its new farming policy must be coupled with an equal drive on agricultural production, underpinned by the enabling of new technologies and innovation.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said, “It’s great news that so many people have responded so enthusiastically to our consultation. Leaving the European Union gives us the opportunity to improve the support we give to Britain’s farmers. We can make farming more productive, improve the quality of the food we eat and enhance our natural environment. We’ll reflect on the many thoughtful ideas put forward in response to our consultation and bring forward our plans for legislation later this year.”
According to an advisor from Cardiff University who is advising the Welsh Government, Defra is consciously planning for around a quarter of the UK’s farms to ‘disappear’ after Brexit says a report in Farmers Guardian.
Dr Ludivine Petetin told a Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) meeting: “A lot of farms are currently profitable only because of direct payments coming from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). From reading the agriculture consultation, it seems to me, and this is going to sound harsh, Defra has made a choice that the 25 per cent of farms which are at the bottom and are not doing very well will perhaps disappear.”
She believes that Defra’s core focus is on how the ‘middle 50 per cent’ of farms can continue to be successful when funding moves from direct payments towards supporting environmental schemes. He added that being outside the EU would see farmers come under pressure as they would not benefit from existing EU tariffs on agricultural imports.
A Defra spokesman said, “Our proposals will see money redirected from direct payments based only on the amount of land farmed to a new system of rewarding farms of all sizes for their work to enhance the environment.”
Concerns about the ability of Defra to cope with the extra volume of work being created by Brexit have resurfaced after Environment Secretary Michael Gove admitted that there could now be as many as 70 different Brexit-related work streams.
The statement was made in a letter by Mr Gove to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) which has been published. Back in December 2017 the National Audit Office was predicting that Defra would have 43 Brexit-related work streams. MPs on the EAC have expressed concerns that Defra will be unable to hire the thousands of extra staff required to cope.
In his letter, Mr Gove said plans are in place for all ‘day one’ projects, adding he was “confident” that Defra is focusing its planning on the most complex projects. “All projects have risks attached, which will ebb and flow as the projects mature,” he said. “The department has been closely monitoring plans and risks and completing regular reviews drive out any blockers to progress.”
However, Mary Creagh, chair of the EAC, said, “We are concerned by how few of the ‘day one’ plans have been published and outlined to businesses and investors, who need clarity about our relationship with the EU during the transition and beyond. From chemicals to climate change, huge regulatory questions remain unanswered. Defra and its agencies have lost almost 5,000 staff since 2010, leaving them struggling to cope with Brexit. We have concerns about the Department’s capability to deliver a growing amount of Brexit-related work, and the cost of hiring new staff.”
Photo Caption: Michael Gove has said there are up to 70 Brexit-related work streams at Defra.
Civil servants have revealed that the Government’s agricultural bill, which is expected to be published later this year, will include measures and targets to maintain and improve soil health.
However, comments made by Environment Secretary Michael Gove which suggest support could be prioritised or limited to those who practice min- or no-till cultivations have caused anger amongst farmers.
Rebecca Pow, parliamentary private secretary, told The Guardian that the bill would include regulation to meet the targets recent set out in the 25-year Environment Plan. “Healthy soil is essential, and there are ways of measuring it, such as the organic matter in the soil. Farmers can be given incentives to improve soil management, such as by crop rotation. It has taken a long time but I think we have turned the corner on getting soil on the political agenda,” she said.
However, speaking at an event in London last week, Michael Gove said the government would support reduced tillage. “We have to move away from our current system, which lacks effective incentives for long-term-thinking, to one that promotes investment in our shared future,” he said. “That will mean we pay farmers to improve the quality and fertility of their soil… “We want to reverse the trends of the past which have led to compaction and run-off, and which have polluted our rivers and choked our fish.”
Although lacking in details, many farmers have expressed concerns on social media that minimal tillage techniques are not suitable for all soils or crops and that any future approach needs to be flexible enough to reflect this.
The Government has claimed that British farmers will see a boost in basic payments this year after Farming Minister George Eustice increased entitlement values and greening rates.
Coupled with the favourable BPS exchange rate (of €1 to £0.8947) which was confirmed in September, basic payments will be worth 25% more on average this year, compared to 2015.
Mr Eustice commented, “Exchange rate changes since the decision to leave the EU have led to a recovery in many farming sectors and BPS payments this year will be 25% higher than in 2015.”
The RPA has published this year’s BPS rates and says the money will be in farmer’s bank accounts from 1 December. Under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), farmers need to hold an entitlement for every hectare of eligible land they are claiming on. The size of farmers’ payments will depend on how many entitlements they use, supported by eligible land and the value of those entitlements. The greening part of payments will be calculated by taking the number of entitlements that they have used with eligible land to claim payment and multiplying it by the greening value. Entitlement values of non-Severely Disadvantaged Areas for 2017 are €180.46 with a greening rate of €77.69.
Defra secretary Michael Gove has said he wants to set up a new watchdog for environmental protection after Brexit.
The announcement, which was made on television and elaborated in an opinion piece on Monday by Mr Gove, has surprised many, particularly as his appointment was criticised by environmental campaigners who worried he would scrap many environmental protections.
Saying that the Common Agricultural Policy had ‘damaged our countryside’ he warned that transferring all existing European law, including environmental protections, into UK law ‘was not enough.’
“Without further action, there will be a governance gap. The environment won’t be protected as it should be from the unscrupulous, unprincipled or careless,” he said. “So we will consult on using the new freedoms we have to establish a new, world-leading body to give the environment a voice and hold the powerful to account. It will be independent of government, able to speak its mind freely.
“And it will be placed on a statutory footing, ensuring it has clear authority. Its ambition will be to champion and uphold environmental standards, always rooted in rigorous scientific evidence.”
He added that the consultation would be published in early 2018.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Michael Gove – UK Parliament official portraits 2017
Defra’s annual summary of UK horticulture shows mixed fortunes for the vegetable, fruit and ornamental sectors, with the value of field vegetables rising while protected veg and fruit fell.
The data shows that home produced vegetables were worth £1.3 billion in 2016, up 7.5% on 2015, although overall production fell by 5.2%. There was an increase in the value of field vegetables, which rose to £990 million (a £107 million increase) whilst the value of protected vegetables fell to £353 million (a £13 million fall). UK grown fruit fell in value to £670 million, a fall of 3.7% compared to 2015, with production at the same level as last year. The fall in value was largely driven by price, with a fall in the value of soft fruit due to a later start to the soft fruit season and a fall in production when compared to 2015.
Home production of vegetables contributed to around 54% of the total UK supply in 2016, 4.6% lower than in 2015. Home production of vegetables fell by 5.2% to 2.6 million tonnes. However, over the last 20 years total production of vegetables remains fairly constant between 2½ and 3 million tonnes. Overall, total supply was down 0.6% to 4.9 million tonnes. This is the first fall in total supply for 4 years.
For fruit, UK production contributed 17% of the total UK supply of fruit in 2016, 3.4% lower than in 2015, but home produced apples increased their share of the market to 42% a 6.8% increase on 2015. This was due to an increase in home production and a reduction in exports when compared to 2015. The total supply of fruit rose by 3.5% to 4.5 million tonnes in 2016.
According to the latest official UK horticultural statistics published by Defra, in 2016 the ornamentals market was worth £1.2 billion, an increase of 4.7% on the previous year. Most of this value came from imports, with the value of imported plants and flowers rising 11% compared with 2015.
The value of ornamental imports cost just below £1.2 billion an 11% rise on 2015. The Netherlands accounted for 74% of imports, mainly indoor plants, chrysanthemums and roses, while Kenya accounted for 5.8% of imports, mainly cut roses and carnations. Imports of cut flowers showed a 13% increase and bulbs a 6.4% increase.
However, there was also positive news for UK growers, as over the same period, exports of ornamentals increased 20% in terms to value to £66 million.