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Farm Output Could Plummet in 2009

02 January 2009
National Farmers Union

UK - The National Farmers Union (NFU) has warned that, at a time when farming is in a stronger position than many other businesses to withstand the impact of the looming recession, there is a real risk that farm output will plummet in the coming year.

NFU President, Peter Kendall, said today in his New Year message that while demand for food should remain steady the production of home-grown goods could plummet in 2009.

He said, "In talking at length to farmers across the country, many of them report some real threats to their businesses. The credit squeeze is making a major dent in producers' confidence in dealing with the high costs of farm inputs like animal feed, fertiliser and diesel.

"Dairy farmers tell me that milk production will fall to perilously low levels, and I know from my own farm that wheat production could tumble as arable farmers contend with the legacy of poor autumn sowing and growing conditions.

"Sheep farmers are appalled at the prospect of the hugely complex and, frankly, pointless prospect of electronically tagging every one of their sheep. The horticultural sector is being squeezed remorselessly by the retailers who are continuing to use ruthless methods when dealing with suppliers in order to keep their costs down."

Mr Kendall expressed particular concern for the dairy industry where production has fallen to a level which requires an increasing reliance on imports.

He said, "Many dairy farmers are anxiously waiting to see whether the spring will bring stability, or the same price pressures that have seen a collapse in prices around the EU. On top of that they are facing costs in excess of £50,000 per farm to install slurry storage to meet EU regulations.

"Last year's wheat harvest was both the biggest and the wettest in memory. Up to between ten and 15 per cent of land now lies unsown and many crops around the country have failed to grow because of the cool, wet autumn and winter. I anticipate that last year's record harvest may be followed by an equally dramatic fall in production during 2009, turning the UK from a net exporter into a break-even position.

"As the UK economy enters a full-blown recession, farming, as the UK's largest primary onshore industry, could be one of the bright sparks, helping to deliver segments of the rural economy from the gloom. But that simply won't happen unless farmers get the recognition they deserve from regulators and retailers."

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