HARVEST produced some very encouraging yields, despite some nationwide weather aggravation in August. It was the year when the UK broke the world wheat record twice, and also took the record yield for oilseed rape.
The NFU Harvest Survey showed a 6% rise in wheat yields year-on-year to 9.1t/ha. The 2015 wheat harvest for the UK is 16.4 million tonnes, a decrease of 1.0% on 2014 but the second largest since 2008 after Defra adjusted their initial estimate in December to 9.0t/ha, a new record and in line with NFU’s earlier results.
The yield for all barley has increased by 4.6% since 2014 to 6.7 tonnes per hectare and total production was up 6.6% to 7.37 million tonnes in 2015. Despite a 3.3% reduction in planted area, the UK oilseed rape harvest has shown an increase of 3.4% to just over 2.5 million tonnes for 2015. This increase in production has been a result of a 6.9% increase in yield from 3.6 tonnes per hectare in 2014 to 3.9 tonnes per hectare in 2015. The East bucked this trend with a yield decrease of 3.6% on 2014, and a production decrease of 8.6%.
Grain Markets: Wheat: since early October UK futures prices have reamed at similar, low levels of around £110/t, with a £8/t weakening in rapeseed price on Paris markets.
Despite El-Niño concerns in Brazil, soyabean production there for 2015/16 is forecast to exceed 100Mt. AHDB also point out that, for wheat markets, the implication of falling oil prices and subsequently a record low Rouble links to Russia’s ability to export. The current policy implications of the falling Russian currency means increases for the effective export tax and a more difficult time for their exporters.
UK signed a barley export protocol with China in November. This was brokered by AHDB’s British Cereal Exports with Red Tractor, NFU and other industry and government partners. China imports 7-8 m tonnes of barley, mostly for brewing, from a limited number of countries under strict plant health protocols.
New regulation of forward grain sales (MiFID II): NFU is working to hold onto successes won in lobbying to allow farmers to continue using forward contracts and futures markets. While the areas NFU identified as problematic have been addressed in draft legislative and technical documents, some in the European Parliament and NGO groups are unhappy with the proposed solutions. NFU will keep in front of legislators to ensure farmers can continue to protect themselves against price risk without committing physical grain sales.
Biofuel: The NFU has continued to meet with MPs and civil servants to influence the formation of policy due to be included in the forthcoming Government consultation. This consultation will include the contentious issue of where the UK will set the ‘crop cap’, which will seek to limit the volume of crops able to be used in biofuel production, and so we have been explaining how the loss of the biofuels market would negatively impact UK Agriculture.
The NFU has been actively supporting AHDB in their work to recalculate the greenhouse gas emissions attributable to UK oilseed and cereal crops in order to take into account the recent findings of the MIN-NO project and to keep open valuable EU biofuel markets to which the NFU had gained access.
Farming faces zero carbon challenge
AN AMBITIOUS new target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 will lead to significant changes in farming practices over the coming decades, according to a leading agri-environment specialist.
Professor Iain Donnison, Head of the Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University, was responding to the publication of ‘Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming’ published by the UK Government Committee on Climate Change.
Professor Donnison is an expert on agriculture and land use, which feature in the report in terms of targets for one-fifth of agricultural land to be used for forestry, bioenergy crops and peatland restoration.
According to Professor Donnison, such a reduction is very ambitious but achievable in Wales and the wider UK. “Land use can positively contribute towards achieving the net zero targets, but there are challenges in relation to emissions from agriculture especially associated with red meat and dairy,” said Professor Donnison.
“In IBERS we are already working on how to make livestock agriculture less carbon intensive and developing new diversification options for the farming of carbon. For example, net zero targets could provide significant diversification opportunities for both farmers and industries that make use of biomass and wood for the production of energy, materials including in construction and for wider environmental benefits.”
Professor Donnison added: “The report gives a clear message regarding the importance of the task and the role that the UK can play to compensate for past emissions and to help play a leadership role in creating a greener future.
“The report says it seeks to be based on current technologies that can be deployed and achievable targets. One-fifth of agricultural land is a very ambitious target but I believe that through the approaches proposed it is achievable (e.g. for bioenergy crops it fits in with published targets for the UK). This is based on the knowledge and technologies we have now regarding how to do this, and because right now in the UK we are developing a new agricultural policy that looks beyond the common agriculture policy (CAP). For example, the 25-year Environment plan published by Defra envisages payment for public goods which could provide a policy mechanism to help ensure that the appropriate approaches are implemented in the appropriate places.
“The scale of the change, however, should not be underestimated, although agriculture is a sector that has previously successfully responded to challenges such as for increased food production. The additional challenge will be to ensure that we deliver all the benefits we wish to see from land: food, carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) management and wider environmental benefits, whilst managing the challenge of the impacts of climate change.
“The link is made between healthy diets with less red meat consumption and future reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. This reflects that agriculture will likely go through significant change over the coming decades as a result of changes in consumer diets.
“Net Zero targets, however, could provide significant diversification opportunities for both farmers and industries that make use of biomass and wood for the production of energy, materials including in construction and for wider environmental benefits.”
HSE fees up 20%
A FEE imposed on farm businesses found to be in breach of health and safety legislation has gone up nearly 20% to £154/hr.
Since October 2012 the Health and Safety Executive has operated a cost recovery regime, which means that businesses are charged for the costs of an investigation from the point a material breach has been identified through to the point when a decision is made on enforcement action.
If you are found to be in material breach of health and safety law, you will have to pay for the time it takes the HSE to identify the breach and help you put things right. This includes investigating and taking enforcement action. This charging scheme is known as a Fee for Intervention (FFI).
Robert Gazely, farm consultant and health and safety specialist for Strutt & Parker said: “A material breach is something which an inspector considers serious enough that they need to formally write to the business requiring action to be taken. Once an inspector gives a farmer this written notification of contravention (NoC), the farmer will be expected to pay a fee.
“From 6 April 2019, the hourly charge has been increased from £129 to £154. The final bill will be based on the total amount of time it takes the HSE inspector to identify the breach and their work to help put things right.
“Of course, the primary reason for farms to be proactive in their approach to health and safety should be to protect themselves, their families and any employees.
“The number of people who are killed and injured each year on farms remains stubbornly high and the human cost of these incidents can be incalculable to those affected.
“But taking a safety-first approach should also help farm businesses to avoid a financial hit, as the HSE fees can mount up in the event of an investigation.”
Red meat gives ‘Taste of Wales’
WELSH Lamb and Welsh Beef were among the finest of Welsh foods at Wales’ largest and most prestigious food and drink trade event, Taste Wales last month.
The remarkable display of products, all under one roof, brought together a large contingent of UK and overseas buyers, including importers with a specific interest in Welsh red meat. These included a major foodservice and retail importer and distributor from Scandinavia that imports 6,000 million tonnes of meat annually from all over the world. The company is recognised for bringing tasty food experiences to Nordic dining tables.
They were invited to the event by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) who also arranged site visits to some of Wales’ major red meat processing plants. The main aim was to impress the importers with the industry’s high ethical and environmental standards.
The visit, led by HCC’s market representatives in Scandinavia, was a platform for many productive and promising discussions.
One representative, Anette Stenebrandt said at Taste Wales: “We have a company from Sweden and Finland with us, trying to do some new business in the Nordic-speaking countries. This is really a fantastic fair and we have enjoyed it a lot.”
Her colleague Jakob True added: “This is our first time here at this amazing event, it’s a great opportunity to meet a lot of Welsh producers, particularly Welsh Lamb which is world-class, we know. We’ll go back to Scandinavia with a lot of good new leads and hopefully bring a lot of business to Wales.”
HCC’s Market Development Manager, Rhys Llywelyn said: “Many of the buyers we met at Taste Wales, including the Scandinavians, showed a significant interest in Welsh Lamb and were impressed by the whole package – from the story of producing Welsh Lamb to the processing techniques, the taste and texture.
“Others also expressed a keen interest in forging deals with the industry, including a Japanese department store, a major buyer from Hong Kong and a representative from Qatar. This bodes well for the future, especially as Brexit uncertainty is set to continue in light of the extension on Article 50.”
In recent months, HCC has undertaken a strategic GB marketing drive to encourage growth and recognition of our quality produce on British soil.
HCC’s UK Market Development Executive, Emily Davies said: “Our presence at Taste Wales also included concentrating our efforts on promoting Welsh Lamb in the domestic market. We met a number of foodservice companies, retailers and executive chefs and discussed Welsh red meat opportunities with meal-kit companies and online retailers. We also launched a new tool-kit for retailers which highlights the ways in which we can work with them to promote Welsh Lamb and Beef.”
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