Tom Chanter: A way to control beef price and make Greta smile

Maize harvest has kicked off for us. It’s a relief to be getting crop in the clamp and, on the whole, it has been a good year for maize… until now.

Just when we were getting into the swing of things – with contractors primed and tractors, trailers and drivers fuelled – we did about two days’ harvesting and then, in quick succession, the forager got a puncture and the heavens opened. I can confidently say that it hasn’t stopped raining since.

I now have a similar feeling towards the weatherman as Greta Thunberg has towards the people at the EU Climate Change Conference: Pure hate. The only difference is I don’t need a £25m sailing boat made out of carbon fibre to tell him.

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From Greta to great

This got me thinking: I can try to run this farm to the best of my ability, I can buy whatever snake oil or fairy dust the next rep wants to sell me but, one thing that I, my dog, Greta or anyone else cannot control is the weather.

My immediate thought was to put the kettle on and find something else to worry about. So I turned my attention back to Greta and Brexit. (I know what you’re thinking, but sit tight and bear with me.) 

We have a great chance here; we export about 24,000t of beef a year and we import about 60,000t. Now then. Where and why are we going so wrong?

There is clearly a demand for beef in the UK if we are importing this much, so why can’t we dictate a bit more how much comes into the country when prices for our beef are low – thereby driving demand and a better return for our own product.

Everyone’s a winner

The effect of this would be twofold. First we get some control over what and how much beef comes into the country, which would mean certain Guinness-drinking EU countries would not be able to flood the market as and when they want to.

Second, we would drastically reduce our food miles, which we could openly advertise and really be seen to be doing good. That would keep Greta and everyone else happy.

This has to be the future – controlling imports and reducing the environmental effect of farming. 

It’s a simple idea but, with the combination of Brexit, increased scrutiny on farming’s carbon dioxide production and needing a more resilient market, this could just be the answer.

So send me a £25m sailing boat – or preferably a private jet – and I’ll buzz over to the next climate change conference to let them know the finer details, and in the process bring back some sunshine.