Kevin Littleboy

29 May 1998

Kevin Littleboy

Kevin Littleboy farms 243ha

(600 acres) as Howe

Estates at Howe, Thirsk, N

Yorks. The medium sandy

loam in the Vale of York

supports potatoes, winter

wheat, rape and barley, plus

grass for sheep

I AM pleased to say we have finally finished planting potatoes, exactly one month later than last year. Just to cheer everybody up, here is a weather warning – we will shortly be married to our irrigators. Wouldnt farming be boring if we didnt complain about the weather?

After a two-year investigation, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission found evidence that manufacturers were restricting supplies to shops which wanted to offer electrical goods at discounts and were pressuring retailers to stick to Recommended Retail Prices. The government has announced measures, due to come into force in September, allowing shops to set prices where they like.

Let us hope pricing structures set by chemical manufacturers are next. It is quite obvious, having seen numerous spray quotations, that there is a parallel here – especially with two major chemical companies.

Two further announcements this week will aid farmers in this battle. Firstly, it is hoped that by the end of June The European Court of Justice will back Advocate General Pierre Leger in his opinion that to be identical products need only contain the same active ingredients, but not necessarily in the same proportions. This will help the importation of chemicals by farmers from cheaper sources.

Secondly, the announcement that Star Agrochem, the largest UK independent buying group, has joined forces with an association of private French agrochemical distributors called Agrainter. With a combined turnover of over £110m they will work together for mutual benefit. Hopefully then farmers will gain from the true meaning of pan-European prices.

Flag leaf sprays will now be a triazole due to high septoria and mildew, rather than the planned Amistar (azoxystrobin). The cost of the two chemicals together is prohibitive in the present climate. We will re-examine its use at ear emergence. After all the hype it is a shame the new chemicals came too late for an early dose before all the rains. This year it would have been ideal.

Just off to service the irrigators…

If the price of electrical goods has been fixed, when will the monopolies and Mergers Commission turn its attention to agrochemicval pricing, asks NYorks farmer, Kevin Littleboy?

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