18 December 2000
Farming loses 24,000 jobs

By Isabel Davies

ALMOST 24,000 farmers and farmworkers left the industry last year, according to statistics published by the Ministry of Agriculture.

The government figures, published on Monday (18 December) show that 23,800 farmers and workers in England left farming in the year to June.

This is equivalent to more than 450 workers leaving the industry each week, and brings total job losses to 41,100 over the past two years.

A MAFF spokesman said the figures werent good but, with farming going through such a bad time, no one had expected them to be.

“This indicates a trend we are fully aware of, but this is why the government is expending so much effort and money on finding the best way forward.”

Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers Union described the job losses as the biggest exodus from farming in living memory.

“The crisis has cut so deeply into the heart of farming in this country that, in spite of the survival instincts of our farmers, many simply cannot carry on.”

Investment levels in agriculture are at their lowest since the 1970s, said Mr Gill. Farmers owe 10 billion in bank borrowings.

He added: “Farmers are doing all they can to hang on to their businesses. All have cut their costs to the bone and many have diversified their businesses.

“Sadly, many farmers have been forced to lay off workers and, as a result, are now working ridiculously long hours.”

An NFU audit carried out a year ago showed 62% of farmers and growers were working more than 61 hours a week, said Mr Gill.

“The ethos of working longer for less is crippling the industry, raising stress levels on the farm and forcing more people out of the industry at an alarming rate.”

Mr Gill renewed his call for the government to reduce the strength of Sterling, and reduce the regulatory burden hampering farmers.

The implementation of the pledges made in the Rural White Paper was also desperately needed to stop the haemorrhaging of jobs and skills from farming.