Farm News 171

The overall cost of producing food rose by 13% in the year to August 2011. Fertiliser prices are up 38% and fuel 25%. Seed, livestock feed and machinery prices all show double figure rises.

After several years of little action, a number of Canadian and Australian wheat organisations are again extending their research into GM wheat varieties. The research has also been widened to include improvements to yields, drought resistance and health benefits. Such varieties are likely to command a price premium. The Soil Association has been accused of overstating the potential dangers of GM in their response to proposed field trials in the UK.

The dry weather in France has led to a shortage of straw for livestock farmers. UK straw merchants are currently shipping 1,500 tonnes per week to France at £120/tonne compared to £100/tonne in the UK. Livestock farmers in the UK are concerned that this trend plus increasing use of straw as fuel in power stations will leave them short this winter. French farmers have received a €1000 subsidy from their government to help with feed costs.

Wheat prices are firming up again, across the world with downgrades forecast, in terms of quality and/or quantity, from some of the leading producers. The UK is likely to have a lower exportable surplus than in 2010.

The replacement of the Hill Farming Allowance with an uplands stewardship scheme in 2010 has led to 34% of hill farmers losing their support payment according to the Tenant Farmers Association. Those on short-term tenancies have been the hardest hit.

UK poultry farmers are concerned that imports of cheap eggs are likely to rise. A number of EU states are not fully compliant with the new welfare rules which raise production costs by 10%. In addition, production costs are much lower in the likes of the USA and China, both large producers with lower welfare standards.

Broadband coverage in rural areas has been given a boost with the allocation of £363m to improve the service in England and Scotland. This is part of the total broadband budget of £530m funded from the licence fee. Wales and N. Ireland have already received their share.