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'Brexit trade deals mean UK farmers will struggle to compete with imports of lower standards'

In the weekly Word on the Ground column, farmer Stafford Proctor talks about the impact of Brexit on the framing industry...

Most farmers are caught in a cost/price squeeze. Our costs are rising, and our prices have been static for 30 years.

I recently reviewed potato prices from 1993 – we were paid on average £170/tonne.

Stafford Proctor (3169605)
Stafford Proctor (3169605)

This is greater than our average price of £120/t achieved from the 2020 crop.

This is an appalling situation and is the result of weak sellers being exploited by strong buyers – our markets are controlled by powerful food packers, processors, and retailers.

The wheat and oilseed markets are the exception to this and follow the world market.

There is a disconnect within the Government’s approach to UK agriculture.

Brexit has led to the UK developing trade deals with major agricultural export nations.

The first trade deal with Australia has been excessively generous with access to UK farmers’ markets.

New Zealand, USA, Canada, Argentina and Brazil will follow.

UK farmers will struggle to compete with imports of lower standards.

The government’s Brexit ideology is based on British workers for British jobs.

This excludes the non-UK workers who have been so critical to growing, harvesting, packing, processing, and delivering the food we produce locally.

As a result, crops have been unharvested, unpacked, or not delivered to the retailer. The food chain is stretched and will begin to fail. Politicians fail to take this shortage of workers seriously.

Future Government support is focused on environmental schemes to pay public money for public goods.

These payments will just about cover the cost of their provision.

The Sustainable Farm Incentive (SFI) will provide a net benefit for the environment, but not necessarily to farmers’ profitability.

There will be a massive agricultural reorganisation and consolidation, reducing the number of farming businesses.

Without BPS to subsidise food production, farmers must make sensible crop production decisions.

Any unprofitable crop will not be grown.

Food packers, processors and retailers will have to pay more if they want a UK food supply.

The one certainty will be the increasing importance of farmers increasingly working together as we do in the National Farmers Union (NFU).

Individually we are weak, together we are stronger.

Working together, cooperating, and collaborating will be of critical importance to our farms’ future success.

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