FarmWeb News – 31/12/2019

A recent report by a soil scientist highlights the importance of maintaining a healthy soil to counteract the worst effects of flooding. It also highlights the episodes of flooding over the last few years cost the country, annually, £1.2bn due to erosion, compaction and loss of organic matter from the soil. An independent study shows that miscanthus, normally grown as a fuel crop, is particularly beneficial to water-logged and flood-prone soils.

The Government consultation on the future of General Licences, for the control of pest birds, is drawing to a close. Defra says it wants the consultation to deliver a robust system of licensing to manage the issues that arise between the protection of wild birds and the legitimate reasons people need to control them especially damage done to crops and young livestock (particularly lambs) by crows following the abrupt withdrawal of the licences earlier this year.

Waitrose has announced that, within eighteen months, all own label fresh and frozen lamb will be sourced in the UK. Waitrose currently source all fresh chicken, pork, beef, eggs and liquid milk from UK producers. The proportion of British meats on supermarket shelves varies enormously depending on the retailer and the product. Asda tends to lag behind with, for example, 53% of its fresh pork home produced compared with a sector average of 79%.

HMRC trade statistics show a growth in UK food and drink exports of 8.3% to £6.2bn in the third quarter 2019. Food and drink exports accounted for 6.4% of total UK exports, in the year to date. The growth was boosted by a rise of 13.1% to non-EU member states with notable increases in exports of meat products and spirits to China.

UK scientists have developed a new vaccine and complementary skin test to help combat TB in cattle. The vaccine is a variation of the BCG vaccine used to protect humans against TB. BCG is effective on cattle, but the skin test will show the animal as “positive” for TB leading to it being slaughtered. The new vaccine and skin test represent a major breakthrough and are undergoing further trials.

Over 92% of farmers in England and Wales received their Basic Payment Scheme money within two weeks of the scheme opening on 1st December. In addition, stewardship schemes payments have been speeded up. The Government has also announced £2.85bn in funding to top-up remaining EU support, over the next two years, as we leave the EU. The Government has promised a new annual support scheme better suited to the UK farming and national interests.

Whilst Europe is still the major market for Welsh lamb exports, new markets have been opened in Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait and other Middle East countries. Exports to the area have increased dramatically over the last two years.