Another year has passed, but they keep coming – and I can tell you the older you get, the faster they go!
We can only hope that we are all ready to enjoy the coming year. I think many of us are here today for two reasons: vaccines and penicillin, which was the wonder drug after WWII and still is today. It saved my life when I was nine years old from pneumonia and many more lives since, just like vaccines from past and present, against the dreaded Covid-19 virus.
So what lies in store for Scottish agriculture in 2022?
One of the challenges and probably the most difficult to overcome is the 20% inflation for most of our industry. The last time we got anything near that number was in the 1970s and early 1980s.
If that happened today, many farms would go bankrupt. There is a farming generation today that only experienced interest rates closer to zero than 5%, which it was when I started farming in 1963.
I mentioned a few months ago that the Bank of England is between a rock and a hard place – it’s damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. I’m concerned that the cost of borrowing may only go one way and that is not good news for agriculture.
Labor, or its cost, will be the next biggest challenge caused by Westminster’s dumb immigration policies due to Brexit. It can only lead our industry in one direction, which is more mechanization. I am not in the field of polytunnels, but I have no doubt that my colleague James Porter will tell us soon how all fruits and vegetables will be mechanically processed.
Maybe poly-tunnels will all go away and be replaced by combines? So what does the year ahead hold for the all-grain producer?
After consulting with two farmer friends I am told that if grain prices stay around £ 250 a tonne, £ 650 for fertilizer will not be a problem. They expect yields to go down and we all know what happens when we produce less – the value of our product increases, as it does now that Russian Putin has full control over oil and gas stocks in the world. ‘Europe.
By accident I saw Westminster Rural Minister George Eustice being interviewed by the Farm Committee, chaired by Neil Parish. Well, I have never heard so much nonsense in my life from a so called Minister of Agriculture! No wonder it is known in some circles as Useless!
One thing is certain, if Eustice and the Boris (now controlled by a petticoat?) Are still in power (which seems unlikely), England will be transformed into an animal park. Certainly, listening to Eustice’s response, it appears that the plan is to abolish all agricultural support by 2027.
It might not be bad news if we head to the New World of consumers paying the true price of food, but the challenge politicians will face will be convincing voters that it is the right one. way forward!
Now I know the so-called politicians who run the country believe that when it comes to food it is available at low prices elsewhere in the world. Well, they better stop dreaming! This is certainly not the case.
All the talk about cheap Australian beef is nonsense. My Australian beef finishing friends are paid at least 50p per kg more than here. It’s not the price of Australian beef that worries me, it’s the consistency of its quality, which we will have no chance of competing with.
Quite simply, it’s because we have too many races and our ranking system is outdated and a joke elsewhere in the real world.
So with a new grain value of £ 250 per tonne, who will lose out? Poultry, pork, dairy, and beef in that order.
I don’t know enough about poultry or pigs to comment much, other than looking at China! When it comes to pigs, they control the values of the world.
My fellow scribe Pat Wilson, who milks the cows, argued that she needed a 5ppl increase, but I can tell Pat if her milk was going to Scotland’s lowest payer she would need some at least 7p per liter more! I’ll let you guess the processor!
Regarding beef, I see an economist from Northern Ireland saying that the UK break-even price per kg must be 434 pence. If we take into account the investment and the repayment of the loans, then 450p will be needed. If that doesn’t happen, Scottish government officials, who are calling for a reduction in cattle numbers, won’t even have to get up in the morning for it to happen.
What about the current price of beef? Those of us in the game know that there is no more Scotch Bounty, it is now English! In the last two months you can earn up to 20p per kg more for cattle in England than in Scotland. Hence the reason why we have so many English buyers here in our auction markets with an ever increasing number of Scottish cattle going south to be sold.
So why did we lose the bounty? Is it QMS, or is it the reality that we only have a few processors and almost all of them are Irish owned, resulting in a lack of competition. Is an Irish cartel now in charge?
And, are the Scottish auction markets too expensive to sell? The reality is that Scottish auction markets are about to be the most expensive in the world to sell stores or fat cattle. Can anyone tell me why? Are there arguments in favor of a degressive commission or a fee cap? The auction markets are certainly showing vast increases in profits!
I’ve changed roles over the past few months as my other half had hip replacement surgery in October. then it was more difficult because I had to go and buy provisions. It was an education.
Historically, I only went to supermarkets to do research for this column, for which I just needed paper and pen. It was a whole new game. Shopping list, pen, mask, hand sanitizer and cart, and after I finished my list (including several phone calls home!) I had to use “plastic” to foot the bill, never having done it before.
All my life I have used a Clydesdale Bank checkbook and had cash in my hip pocket. Fortunately, most of the staff at check-out were very helpful. First, I tried the big four supermarkets to see which I liked best and where I could get everything on the list in one stop. The winner was Morrisons, but being someone who hates standing in line, that’s where he got a yellow card.
The good news is the boss is now back after a successful surgery and doing his shopping again. His main complaint was that the prices had all increased slightly and that a few items were missing from time to time.
Where does the future support for Scottish agriculture stand? Our Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon will try to follow the EU’s agenda, which is quite different from England as closely as possible, meaning that there will no longer be any UK policy on supporting the EU. agriculture, but one thing is certain, it will be less.
My other prediction is that the so-called No. 10 leader will be replaced by Liz Truss as he is forced to continue his blunders, when he eventually falls on his sword!
A statistic from last year – my precipitation is the seventh lowest reading at 34.75 inches and my 30-year average is 38 inches. I last cut my lawn on December 10th and if the unusual temperatures persist it looks like I will have to mow it again in January.
So keep having fun, because this is not a repeat – and be thankful for living in this lovely little country!