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Income Figures Give False Impression

by 5m Editor
1 February 2008, at 10:16am

UK - While the total income from farming is estimated to have risen over the past year, the industry is unbalanced and farmers in many sectors are suffering big losses.

These comments came from Tim Farron Countryside Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, in response to government figures released on farm business income yesterday.

He said that although output is up by 10 per cent this is off-set by higher costs, such as the huge rise in feed prices - up by nearly a fifth. Also, many livestock producers continue to suffer as a consequence of the foot and mouth and bluetongue outbreaks last year.

"The future for egg farmers looks particularly bleak, with incomes on specialist poultry farms taking a huge hit.

"The price of eggs may well have risen, but the benefits do not filter down to the individual farmer while the supermarkets rake in huge profits. Across the industry, total income per farm is still only £13,349."

Masking reality

The NFU warned that the farming industry is becoming "dangerously unbalanced" in terms of incomes.

Although Defra's signal an improvement these figures mask a huge variation in the performance of the different sectors, with rising cereal prices being the critical factor.

Higher grain prices may boost profits for cereal farmers - estimated to increase almost 40 per cent during the 2007/08 financial year - But this has decimated the pig and poultry industry. This year the average pig farmer will make a loss of over £4000, while poultry farmers have seen their profits slashed by more than 90 per cent.

"Although an increase of ten per cent in net farm incomes looks like a worthwhile move forward, where we are now is neither healthy nor sustainable for the long-term. We desperately need to bring the industry back into balance, through a phased increase in producer prices for beef, lamb, poultry, eggs and pigs," urged NFU president Peter Kendall.

The livestock sectors need to recover, if farming UK was to make its full contribution to securing Britain's food supplies.

The alternative would a boom, bust cycle, which could de-stabilise the arable sector, fuel food price inflation and leave the country dangerously dependent on expensive imports.

Doubts and Difficuties

Defra minister Jeff Rooker said that although the statistics painted a positive picture overall he was very aware that the rise was not universal.

"Many livestock farmers have had a very difficult time in recent months due to a series of unforeseen events including animal disease outbreaks and increasing feed prices. For our part, government remains committed to working with the agriculture sector to help farmers drive up their economic and environmental performance," he said.

Farmers say they remain to be convinced. Pig farmers have seen an increase in retail prices - a response to industry campaigning and market pressure - but they have yet to benefit at the farmgate. Their incomes are at an all time low, in spite of huge improvement to efficiency. Feed costs continue to strangle the industry and unless retail price rises are passed back down the supply chain they will not survive and pork price to consumers will escalate, long-term.

5m Editor