FarmWeb News 07/03/2012

DEFRA has announced the launch of the Rural Economy Grants scheme, the latest initiative to help generate a thriving rural economy. The scheme makes £60m available to farmers and entrepreneurs to improve their existing business or pursue new opportunities.

The Schmallenberg virus has continued its rapid spread across southern counties of England.  Over 100 cases have now been reported with over 90% involving sheep resulting in birth defects and abortions.  The remaining cases are in cattle with no other species affected.  DEFRA will not give the disease “notifiable status” as it believes this would not help to control it.

The price of eggs is set to rise by 15-20% due to increased production costs and a shortage of supplies.  The ban on eggs from old style cages that took effect in January has made the problem worse in countries such as France where prices are up 75%.

Sales of small utility vehicles (UTVs), to farmers, rose by 24% last year at the expense of ATVs which fell by almost 5%.  The greater carrying capacity of UTVs is a big draw but they are equally attractive to thieves as crime figures show.

Exports of red meat from the UK rose by 25% in 2011 to almost £1.1bn.  Beef showed the biggest rise of 32% to £437m.  However, red meat imports also rose by 5% to £2.7bn.

A £300m bioethanol plant near Hull is due to open in few months time.  The plant will consume 1.1m tonnes of locally sourced wheat, annually, to produce 420m litres of bioethanol and 500,000 tonnes of high protein animal feed.  A similar sized plant on Teesside is due to re-open after initial teething difficulties.

The total income from farming in Wales, rose by 30% in 2011.  A rise of 16% overall, is forecast for 2011/12 with lowland cattle and sheep enterprises leading the way with a forecast 20% increase.

The EU Commission is asking member states to clamp down on CAP subsidies being paid to land owners who qualify but who are not actively farming within the spirit of the policy.  These so called “slipper farmers” were highlighted in a recent Panorama television programme.

Organic food sales fell by 3.7% in 2011, the third annual fall, leaving sales 20% down from their peak in 2008.