FarmWeb News 07/02/2012

The Government is embarking on a plan to boost UK food and drink exports to the developing world. The Farming, Food and Drink Exports Plan is intended to support and encourage sales into countries such as China, India and Russia. UK food and drink exports are at record levels but most currently go to the USA and Europe.

Farms in Kent and East Anglia have been affected by Schmallenberg Disease (SBV), a newly emerging livestock disease spreading from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.  The disease seems to cause mild health problems in adult cattle and birth defects.  The disease is spread by midges and is under urgent investigation by the EU.

World wheat values have strengthened to over £155/tonne on fears of the effects of the drought in South America and tight supplies in Eastern Europe.  Demand for UK wheat has increased with exports approaching 1.5m tonnes in 2011.  There are worries that the freezing conditions across Europe may threaten the crop and push prices up further.

According to the land agents, Savills, expansion of existing farms, particularly arable, accounted for 50% of land sales in 2011.  Farmers bought over 60% of the land on offer with the rest going to investment institutions.  The latter accounted for a good proportion of sales with profit-taking being the incentive as some land values have almost doubled in the last four years.

Total income from farming in Scotland rose by 4.1% to £569m in 2011.  Results varied across the different farming sectors with specialist beef rearers losing income, sheep remaining static and arable and dairy farmers increasing their incomes.

Landowners and occupiers affected by the High Speed Two rail line will be offered a £1,000 access payment to allow contractors to carry out environmental impact assessments.  The payment has been negotiated with HS2 Ltd by the NFU and CLA.

DEFRA figures for 2011 show that, for the first time, over half (51%) of the eggs produced in the UK were from non-caged birds.  Product labelling and increased public awareness are the main reason for this rise, up from 14% in 1995.

According to NFU Mutual, thefts of ATVs rose by 150% in 2011, with only 5% recovered.  Machinery thefts are estimated at £70m of which £25m relates to tractors.