FarmWeb News 18/12/2012

The farm minister has enraged environmental groups by calling for the use of GM food technology in Great Britain.  The groups see the comment as a clear statement of government intent. Over 160m hectares of GM crops are grown around the world but, apart from a few trial plots, they are currently banned in the EU.

The number of cases of the Schmallenberg virus jumped by almost 300 last month to 715 with the West Country being the worst affected. There are 453 cases in cattle and 262 in sheep. The disease is spreading much faster than anticipated.

Within the last month the average retail price of four pints of milk has risen from £1.18 to £1.29 as supermarkets move away from using it as a loss leader. Farming leaders see this as a positive move as prices paid to producers continue to rise but profitability remains a problem. DEFRA has made £5m available to encourage dairy farmers to co-operate and look for new market opportunities.

As was widely expected, the EU has now confirmed that the reform of the CAP will not take effect until 2015. Negotiations between the member states have been beset with problems and disagreements pushing the implementation back by twelve months.

Despite stricter testing procedures and increased movement controls, the incidence of TB in cattle rose for the third consecutive year. The number of cattle slaughtered, in the UK, in the twelve months to August 2012, increased by 5% to 24,685 at a total cost to taxpayers of £91m. The EU has confirmed that vaccination of cattle is some years away.

The fall in potato production in the UK has been mirrored across northern Europe with an overall reduction of 17%. Potato prices in the UK have risen by over 100% on last year.

The poor weather has increased the risk of failure of some autumn sown crops.  Experts consider that 7% of the wheat crop is at risk and 5% of the barley crop. Oilseed rape is likely to be the worst hit with 20% forecast to fail.

A recent survey of agricultural rents shows a sharp increase in the last twelve months. Influenced by stronger commodity prices, rises have averaged 25%. The highest rises were in Eastern England at 32%.