Farmer Focus: Andrew Hunter, April column

Will spring ever arrive? We had a good window for spring barley drilling at the end of February, but nothing since.

We have been struggling to get fertiliser on wheat in Hungary, and the Ukraine is still having snowfalls, so we haven’t completed our cultivations, let alone drilling.

We have been busy exporting machinery to the Ukraine for the coming season, but moving the 9m drill plus tractor on one lorry seems nigh impossible, so it looks as though it will end up being driven 550 miles.

We are busy buying the machinery approved in last year’s subsidy scheme. It must all be bought by the end of September to qualify.

Our area aid finally came through last week, much to my and the bank’s relief. We are still not moving enough potatoes and the price drops almost every week.

This is a minor hitch compared with the cash crunch in Serbia. Given the Kosovo problem, everyone is holding on to cash rather than spending it, and we have been unable to sell grain. So we haven’t been able to pay for a new tractor.

With the coming elections, I hope things will improve, though I fear that with the isolation of Serbia by some EU countries and the USA, voters may go for a more radical option.

We recently received a lovely letter from the Hungarian tax authorities congratulating us on being in the country’s top 10,000 corporation taxpayers. So now we can fill in a lot more statistical forms, and if we get them wrong we’ll be fined.

We have to enter a new round of negotiations with the dairy company next week, as our milk price was fixed for the first quarter.

The news from people renegotiating is that we can expect a serious price reduction of about 15-20%.

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