24 February 2000
Farming must face up to the real world
IS it not about time that British farmers stop complaining about the lack of profits in the agricultural industry, and do something instead of asking for more handouts from tax payers?
I am in my final year of BSc (Hons) in agriculture and business management at Writtle College, and I am fed up with hearing how hard-up farmers are.
I can understand that agriculture is going through a hard time and some people will go out of business. However, I believe this is normal in all types of industry.
Subsides have given farmers unrealistic profit margins
for to long and I would personally remove subsides except those related to environment.
Why should agriculture have millions of pounds of the taxpayers money pumped into it when other industries, such as coalmining, were allowed to go to the wall.
Farmers are going to have to learn to compete on a world wide market, and those that cannot should leave farming.
I was of the understanding that, a few years ago, farmers were making extremely good profits. If this was the case, surely that money should be now used to carry them though the harder times, instead of expecting more handouts from the EC.
Farmers are going to have to change their ways and, if I dare use the word, “diversify”.
There are ways of keeping farming profitable and to increase farm incomes, but it all depends on whether the individual farmer is willing to change his ways and adapt to the new circumstances.
Some will not be able to do this, and they will be the ones that go out of business first. This will make way for new people to start up in farming or to allow other farms to expand and become more profitable.
So, please, could we start hearing less about how hard-up British farmers are and how the whole country should pay them to carry on farming.
They should learn to stand on their own two feet like other businesses, without the general public supporting their incomes.
The real world – for pig farmers
I CAN tell JTS of Chelmsford (Farming must face up to the real world, Open Forum, 07 February, 2000) that the real world to a pig farmer is to work all
hours for less than nothing.
Given a fair chance, farmers can live in the real world, but our government has “hog-tied” them with rules and regulations.
A glaring example is the pig industry, which has its welfare
legislation, strict husbandry guidelines, restrictions on feed and over-the-top inspections, both on the farm and all the way to the final customer.
The government insists on all of this and then allows imports from anywhere to undercut the market so our high-cost pigmeat has to be sold for less than its production cost.
To make matters worse, it is often impossible to distinguish home-produced from imported by looking at the label.
I agree with JTS of Chelmsford that farming will change but, for the pig industry, the only change is going to be complete closure.
Can JTS tell me how to compete with cheap, low-cost imports and not break the law?
The real world? – wait till you get there
WITH regard to comments by JTS of Chelmsford, Essex (Farming must face up to
the real world) – you havent even finished your degree yet, and youre an expert.
The agricultural market is not written in black and white, it tends to be subtle shades of grey, as with any other market.
The UK market does not operate on a level playing field with its European competitors, and usually we find that the UK producers are the ones fighting the uphill battle, with the sun in their eyes.
Their competitors have also been in receipt of bigger subsidies and your unilateral solution is one likely to lead to total loss of the UK market.
Your answer to the problem is over-simplified, lacks substance and demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the time and effort that goes into farming, the prices available on the market, capital costs, available margins, volumes required for cost effectiveness, diseases, maintainance
and obsolescence costs of farming equipment and finally the effect that putting food production into fewer and fewer hands would have on the market – look at the power of Supermarkets.
When you are working in the real world and have some experience, you will realise that at the moment you are just starting to learn and have very little to offer the world, other than a demonstration of your ability to learn part of a specialised topic at a theoretical level.
After that, you may come up with an answer that has required a little more thought.