29 November 1999
Wake up to farming crisis, MAFF told
By FWi staff
THE government was told to wake up to undeniable evidence that farmers are in serious trouble after it released figures showing another fall in farm incomes.
Provisional figures forecast that total income from farming for 1999 will fall a further 1.5% to £2.25 billion, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
The National Farmers Union reacted by saying farmers had battled through another tough year which produced more casualties and little sign of recovery.
Despite drastic measures and further improvements in performance, there was little hope offered to struggling producers, said Ben Gill, NFU president.
“The government must wake up to the undeniable evidence in its own figures that British agriculture is in serious trouble,” he said.
“Farmers have cut their costs to the bone, are taking on extra work and exploring every conceivable way to improve their business and marketing performance and still their incomes are down.”
Many farmers are “forced to struggle on alone, clocking up over 60 hour weeks and still unable to earn a sensible living or invest in their business,” added Mr Gill.
“It is heartbreaking for anyone to find that in spite of their efforts, dedication to the job and hard work that they are still no better off,” he said.
“I fear more farmers will be forced to make tough decisions about their future in the coming months unless something is done to put confidence back into the industry.”
Rock-bottom returns are being experienced in every sector, with particularly drastic effect among pig and poultry producers.
Income for beef and sheep farmers in upland areas also fell by 35%, according to other figures released by MAFF.
Mr Gill called on ministers to make major cuts to the bureaucratic burden of red tape that the NFU claims is undermining the competitiveness of UK farmers.
The figures continue a four-year trend of falling profitability on Britains farms, and reinforce concern that the industry has still not turned the corner, he claimed.
Figures released earlier this month by MAFF revealed the deep wounds already being inflicted on the industry by the continuing crisis, said Mr Gill.
In the 12 months to June this year, nearly 18,000 agricultural jobs were lost as more farmers cut their losses and sold up or were forced to stand off staff.