Archive Article: 2000/02/11

11 February 2000

Andrew Hebditch

Andrew Hebditch farms

285ha (700 acres) of

owned, tenanted and

share-farmed land at Coat,

Martock, Somerset. Silt

and clay soils support

winter wheat, barley and

oilseed rape, plus spring

peas, linseed and beans

IT is official, and we heard it from the horses mouth. No more money to be spent propping up British agriculture.

Money will be spent on rural development, whatever that might be. The only development that would help at the moment would be a few acres next to our village. Apparently, we need to diversify and promote our wares on the internet. This comes from a man who, as Prime Minister, ought to be able to use more than half a dozen brain cells at one time and realise that to survive our core business of food production has to be profitable.

What annoys me more than anything is knowing that our low prices are caused mainly by the current rate of exchange, for which government monetary policy is solely to blame. I am probably being very naive, but surely commodities on which life itself depends have a value which should be independent of such currency fluctuations and London traders manipulations? Imagine the outrage if water was subject to either of these things.

Anyway, lets look at things over which we have some degree of control. Just over 100t of 26:8:8 Kemira N24 has been ordered at £106/t. Although that seems expensive, it is a saving of £6/t on using 0:20:30 plus straight nitrogen as Nitram. And that excludes application savings. Wheat is being moved to make space for the fertiliser and at only £68/t we are thankful for no deductions.

Only 19mm (0.7in) of rain during January saw most of our ground drying well after the deluge in December. By the time I write next months column, field work should have started with spring beans drilled and the first of the fertiliser on.

Finally, for the NFU to hold their conference at the London Hilton when their members are struggling to survive seems a bit extravagant to me. Or perhaps I have got hold of the wrong end of the stick again. Maybe the delegates share the full cost.

What really gets my goat is the governments intransigence on exchange rates, says Somerset grower Andrew Hebditch.

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