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Monthly farming update

Our renowned Monthly Farming Update was started by Prof John Nix and is our running commentary on the industry. Offering the latest news and unique insights on the rural and farming sectors, updated on a monthly basis, the publication has a wide readership amongst farmers and professionals. Now available online as a free resource or via snail mail by request.

September 2020

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+ Policy issues

1 The Government has published a policy statement on flood and coastal erosion risk management. Investment of £5.2 billions will create 2,000 new flood and coastal defences to better protect 336,000 properties in England by 2027. £200 millions will support innovative projects such as sustainable drainage systems and nature-based solutions such as temporary or permanent water storage areas. £170 millions will be spent to accelerate work on shovel-ready flood defence schemes which will begin construction in 2020 or 2021.

2 The Government has published ‘Prevention is better than cure – the role of waste prevention in moving to a more resource efficient economy’. The policy includes encouraging businesses to build waste reduction into design; developing a Sustainable Electricals Action Plan seeking a commitment on design for longer life and increased technical durability; raising awareness of resource efficient business models and supply chain innovations through a £900,000 programme of Action Based Research Pilots and WRAP run trials of take back schemes and leasing/hiring schemes; and developing a £800,000, two-year scheme to support communities take forward innovative waste prevention, reuse and repair actions.

3 Defra has published the Circular Economy Package which sets a target to recycle 65 per cent of municipal waste by 2035 with no more than 10 per cent going to landfill.

1 The Government has set the exchange rate to be used for the 2020 Basic Payment at €1 = £0.89092, the same rate as in 2019.

2 The way penalties are calculated for small over-claims of land has been simplified in an attempt to make the Basic Payment System less complicated. If the over-claim is more than 2 hectares or 3 per cent, but not more than 10 per cent, of the area determined, the RPA will apply a penalty of 0.75 times the size of the over-claim. For over-claims of more than 10 per cent the penalty will be 1.5 times the size of the over-claim.

3 The Government has confirmed that the ‘greening requirements’ will be abolished for 2021 and onwards.

4 The Welsh Government has launched a consultation seeking views on proposals for agricultural support with effect from 2021.

5 Only 3 per cent of farmers expect the Government to invest appropriately in nature-friendly farming while only 11 per cent considered enough support was being provided to help farmers manage the transition to a ‘public money for public goods’ system.

6 A survey conducted by Ipsos Mori has found that 60 per cent of large farms in the EU claim current regulations make it difficult to respond flexibly during the Covid-19 pandemic and other crises. Of 250 farms surveyed, Germany, at 9 per cent, had the least faith while Poland, at 43 per cent, had the most.

7 15,250 Scottish farmers are to receive a total of £6.39 millions under the Financial Discipline Mechanism. The payments are courtesy of a reserve of 1.5 per cent of the Pillar 1 budget which is released to farmers if not required.

8 The Scottish Government has made available £340 millions ahead of the normal BPS schedule by way of loans to farmers and crofters.

1 Defra has announced nine agricultural technology projects which are to benefit from funding totalling £24 millions. The projects include REACT-FIRST which will turn carbon dioxide from the Selby power station into food for fish and poultry; Optimal Labs is to develop autonomous technology to control climate, irrigation and lighting in greenhouses; Saga Robotics will develop robots to carry out physical farm processes such as picking and packing fruit and treating crops to reduce pests and diseases; Infarm2.x will develop vertical farming systems; Agri-Salt is developing an algae growing system which exploits natural seawater to produce food in deserts; Gelponic has developed a new growth material which will conserve water and protect plants by filtering pathogens; and Tuberscan-Demo is developing a system which will measure potato sizes and yields in fields to enable selective harvesting to take place.

2 A Syngenta survey of 600 large farms in Africa, Brazil, China, USA, France and India has revealed that 87 per cent had experienced a negative effect on their ability to produce food as a result of climate change.

3 New data has revealed that, since the introduction of the 5p charge in 2015, sales of plastic carrier bags have fallen by 95 per cent in England’s main supermarkets and, as a result of the charge, £178 millions has been donated to charitable causes.

4 Defra and the Forestry Commission have published a Framework Document detailing how the two bodies will work together.

5 The Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has been expanded to include the Stour estuary, northern estuary valley slopes at Brantham, the majority of the southern estuary valley slopes, the Freston Brook valley, the Samford valley and some areas of Shotley Peninsula Plateau.

1 The Scottish Government has published its Total Income from Farming for 2019. TIFF fell by 3 per cent, compared to 2018, to £791 millions and to £263 millions if support payments are excluded. Inputs rose marginally to £3.08 billions, mainly caused by increases in seed, fertilizer and lime costs. Output of wheat rose by 29 per cent, to £133 millions, and potatoes by 25 per cent, to £250 millions. Horticultural production rose by 13 per cent to £364 millions. However, there were falls in the output of cattle and calves of 6 per cent and sheep and lambs of 10 per cent. Overall TIFF was £129 per hectare, only the North East of England has a lower figure.

2 The Agricultural Price Index for May shows an increase in outputs of 1.1 per cent, compared to April, and an increase of 2.1 per cent compared to a year earlier. Inputs fell by 0.6 per cent and 2.9 per cent respectively.

3 The 2018/19 Scottish Farm Business Survey has been published. Average Farm Business Income was £39,000 of which £34,000 was generated by farming and support payments with £5,000 being contributed by non-agricultural activities. The average farm received £43,000 from CAP support. Without support payments only 28 per cent of farms achieved a surplus, including support payments this increased to 72 per cent.

4 The Scottish Government has issued a consultation document on the future of the Scottish Land Court and the Lands Tribunal for Scotland with particular reference to the amalgamation of the two bodies.

+ Product prices

Prices and their availability remains hampered by the Coronavirus pandemic (“CV19”); every effort has been made to ensure the information below is accurate.

A Market background

1 The Sterling exchange rates against Dollar and Euro both remained volatile this month but did not move in the same direction. Against the Euro, and from an opening position of 90.6p per €, Sterling spent the month fluctuating between a high point of 89.3p and a low of 91.4p; a late-month recovery saw Sterling close at 90.0p per € (0.6p stronger overall). Against the US Dollar, Sterling opened at 80.8p per $ and proceeded to gain strength throughout the month, closing at its peak for the month (and the last six months) of 76.4p per $ (4.4p stronger). Crude oil prices were volatile but without large movements in price, as the world demand remains suppressed by the differing levels of CV19 lockdown. The Brent Crude oil price, from a starting position of $41.71 per barrel, climbed as high as $44.32, dropped back as low as $42.35 before closing the month at $43.30 per barrel (up $1.59).

B Crops

1 Cereal prices improved steadily this month as the progress of the Northern Hemisphere harvest substantiated the market’s concerns over lower yields, and to a lesser extent quality, underpinned by localised harvest delays in the Ukraine. A global surplus is still anticipated as the Southern Hemisphere is expected to ‘fill the gap’, but, despite this, the International Grains Council revised its overall global yield predictions downwards by 5 million tonnes. LIFFE feed wheat futures improved by a moderate margin this month, having peaked higher mid-month, the average prices tailed off by the close. By late July prices had improved marginally across the board, with deliveries for November 2020 and 2021 up to £166/tonne (+3) and £152/tonne (+2) respectively. May 2022 deliveries climbed a little further to peak at £159 but dropped back to close at £157 (+1). Oilseed rape prices improved largely as a result of the positive crude oil price movements, hampered by Sterling rates but assisted by the realisation of the predicted poor yields. Pulse pea and bean prices continued to weaken as the market is now focussed on new crop.

Average spot prices in late July (per tonne ex-farm): feed wheat £159 (+4); milling wheat £184 (+4); feed barley £122 (-); oilseed rape £330 (+10); feed peas £195 (-5); feed beans £203 (-5).

2 The potato market moved on to the 2020 crop this month as 2019 crop supplies dried up and the harvest of early varieties commenced in earnest. Because of the shift in harvest, and the low tonnages of crop being supplied, the sample was largely insufficient to quote an average potato price or the free-buy average throughout the month. The market is still suppressed by the pervasive effects of CV19 but will have to adjust quickly to the changes in catering and commercial demand as normality starts to slowly return; a fall in the average price is anticipated as the season progresses. Harvest of early crop is progressing well with favourable conditions and reports of above average yields. Development of the 2020 main crop continues well for those with a plentiful water supply as high temperatures and sunlight hours have pushed crops hard. By late July the average potato price was quoted at £206 per tonne (no average was quoted a year earlier).

In the shift to 2020 crop, variety choice has become limited; prices for grade 1 packing in late July (per tonne ex-farm): Maris Peer (<45mm) had increased in spread to between £220 and £335; whilst white varieties were ranging from £120 up to £150.

C Livestock

1 Cattle prices were positive overall this month, despite a mid-month ‘stall’. The average finished steer price, from an opening position of 193p/kg lw, reached 195p/kg and relaxed to 194p/kg before improving more substantially in the latter half of the month to close at a peak of 203p/kg lw (up 10p and sitting 25p above the closing average a year earlier). The average finished heifer price followed a similar trend but gained more notably in the final week; from the opening position of 203p/kg lw, it reached 205p/kg lw and fell back to 204p/kg before gaining a further 15p to close at 219p/kg (up 16p to sit 24p above the price a year earlier). The average dairy cow price returned to its normal state of volatility; from an opening level of £1,201, it peaked at £1,461and dropped to £1,170 before closing the month at £1,384 (a gain of £183 in the month to sit £11 above the closing average a year earlier).

2 Lamb prices benefited from a small, but short-lived, price spike this month, seeing the average finished lamb price (SQQ live weight) reach 231p/kg lw from an opening position of 222p/kg lw. Thereafter the average dropped back to 223p/kg and then to 218p/kg before a recovery at the end of the month brought a closing average of 224p/kg lw (up 2p and sitting 47p/kg above the average a year earlier).

3 The average UK all pig price (APP) was more buoyant this month but closed on a marginally downward facing trajectory. Opening at 167.5p/kg dw, the average relaxed at the start of the month to 167.4p/kg before improving to a peak of 168.7p and finally dropping back to close at 168.5p/kg (up 1.0p to sit 13.8p/kg above the closing average a year earlier).

4 The UK average ‘all milk’ price for May, published in July, was reported as 26.68ppl, a fall of 0.67ppl below the April average (1.16ppl below the average in May 2019 and 0.65ppl below the rolling 5 year average of 27.33ppl). The initial estimate for the UK average ‘all milk’ price for June is 26.89ppl (an improvement of 0.21ppl). In the rankings against the ‘EU28’ farmgate milk price for May, published in July, the UK ranked 23rd against a weaker EU28 weighted average of 30.10ppl.

+ Other crop news

1 Early yield indications suggest that winter oilseed rape crops are yielding 2.5-2.9 t/ha, 15-30 per cent below the 5-year average. Winter barley yields have averaged 6.4-6.8 t/ha, 4-10 per cent down on the 5-year average.

2 The European Commission has reduced its estimate of EU-27 wheat production by 0.6Mt to 123.8Mt; the barley forecast is down 2Mt to 51.4Mt; but the maize forecast has risen to 72.5Mt.

3 The French Government has forecast a 21 per cent fall in soft wheat production, estimated at 31.3Mt, down from 39.55Mt. The planted area was a 17 year low of 4.41 Mha.

4 The AHDB Planting and Variety survey for 2020/21 has been published. The wheat area is forecast to have fallen by 25 per cent on 2019/20, estimated at 1.363m/ha with all English regions recording double digit declines. The barley area is forecast to increase by 19 per cent to 1.358m/ha. The oats area is forecast to be down by 2 per cent in Scotland but up 26 per cent in England. Conversely the Scottish area of oilseed rape is forecast to be up by 2 per cent while the English area is down 28 per cent, the lowest since 2002. The latest crop condition report rates 41 per cent of the winter crop as being ‘very poor’ or ‘poor’.

5 Eric Watson of New Zealand has broken the world wheat record for a second consecutive time by achieving 17.4 tonnes per hectare with KSW Kerrin.

6 Defra has published statistics on the characteristics of high performing cereal farms in England covering the period 2010/11 to 2016/17. Of the variation in performance, under 0.1 per cent is related to large-scale geographic factors whereas 44 per cent is attributed to temporal variation, such as adverse weather events and price fluctuations and 56 per cent is contributed by the characteristics of the farm business itself, such as differences in management ability and local geographic effects. In summary, farms with greater debt tended to have reduced agricultural and farm business performance; farms with diversified enterprises performed less well in the agricultural portion of the business but better at the farm business level; farms which received a greater proportion of their income from agri-environment schemes tended to have poorer farm business and agricultural performance; farms which used more contractors tended to have better agricultural farm business performance; owner occupied farms perform better than tenanted farms; and larger farms have a better performance in both the business overall and in agriculture.

7 A Rothamsted Research survey has revealed that 38 per cent of arable soils in England and Wales are degraded. Soils are classified by the proportion of organic matter they contain against their clay content.

8 Symptoms of stem rust disease have been found in untreated plots of winter wheat at Oak Park Crop Research Centre in Ireland. The disease has been responsible for severe epidemics in western Europe but not for many decades.

9 Saaten Union has bred Lion, a spring oat variety with a kernel content of 76 per cent.

10 Yorkshire has reported up to 60 per cent of virus yellows in sugar beet crops.

11 The Agricultural Price Index for May shows falls of 0.1 per cent in wheat, compared to April, 1.5 per cent in barley, 0.3 per cent in potatoes, 3.5 per cent in oilseed rape, 10.4 per cent in fresh vegetables and 46.4 per cent in fresh fruit but there were increases of 5.8 per cent in oats and 0.1 per cent in forage plants. Compared to a year earlier, there were falls of 6.3 per cent in wheat, 14.6 per cent in barley, 36.3 per cent in oats and 2.5 per cent in potatoes but increases of 2.7 per cent in oilseed rape, 11.8 per cent in forage plants, 2.9 per cent in fresh vegetables and 81.2 per cent in fresh fruit.

12 Statistics on horticulture for 2019 have been published. Home production of vegetables fell by 1.8 per cent to 2.4 million tonnes, the lowest level for over 20 years, but the value rose by 3.9 per cent to £1.4 billions. Total supply was static at 4.5 million tonnes with imports increasing by 1.8 per cent to 2.3 million tonnes while exports fell by 2.6 per cent to 142,300 tonnes. Home production contributed 54 per cent of the total UK supply, up 1 per cent on 2018. Field vegetables fell by 1.8 per cent to 2.2 million tonnes but the value increased by 3.5 per cent to £1.1 billions. The area fell by 1.2 per cent to 115,000 hectares. Production of protected vegetables fell by 2 per cent to 269,000 tonnes and the area fell by 0.5 per cent to 799 hectares but the value increased by 5.1 per cent to £335 millions. Fruit production fell by 6.5 per cent to 683,000 tonnes although the area was unchanged. Home production contributed 16.4 per cent of total UK supply, down 0.9 per cent. The value of fruit rose by 9.7 per cent to £875 millions although glasshouse fruit fell by 12 per cent to £53 millions. The value of dessert apples rose by 57 per cent but culinary apples fell by 13 per cent, cider apples by 9 per cent and plums by 11 per cent. Home produced apples accounted for 39 per cent of the market, up 2 per cent, and pears 20 per cent, also up 2 per cent.

13 NIAB EMR and Meiosis have entered into an agreement whereby NIAB EMR will take control of all worldwide marketing rights of Meiosis varieties of soft fruit.

14 The University of Lincoln, NFU, Agri-EPI Centre, the manufacturing Technology Centre and the Knowledge Transfer Centre have combined to develop automated picking and packing systems for soft fruit.

15 ICL has established a global support network for agronomists and growers, AgroPro.

16 Lucozade Ribena Suntory has invested £500,000 in a five-year project with the James Hutton Institute to develop new varieties of climate-resistant blackcurrant. The research will also be seeking varieties with high anthocyanin levels, which give the berries their purple colour, and also varieties which are naturally more resistant to pests and diseases.

17 Fresh Forward has developed a new strawberry variety, Verdi.

18 Scientists at the Japanese Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have succeeded in fertilising pear trees using pollen carried on soap bubbles due to a decline in the bee population. The soap bubbles achieved a 95 per cent success rate.

+ Other livestock news

1 Defra has published statistics on the characteristics of high performing grazing livestock farms in England covering the period 2010/11 – 2016/17. Of the variation in performance, less than 1 per cent is due to large-scale geographic factors, such as regional differences in soil and climate, 25 per cent was attributed to factors such as adverse weather events and over 70 per cent was related to the characteristics of the farm business itself, such as differences in management ability and local geographic effects. In summary, farms in debt tended to have reduced agricultural and farm business performance; farms with diversified enterprises performed less well in agriculture but this was balanced out at the farm business level; specialist lowland farms performed better whilst those in less-favoured areas had no relationship between specialisation and performance; membership of agri-environment schemes was associated with better performance both at farm business and agricultural levels; organic farms had better performing farm businesses; those businesses which used large proportions of unpaid labour had poorer performing farm businesses; farms which used contractors to rear livestock had a better agricultural performance; membership of a farm assurance scheme was associated with increased farm business and agricultural performance; and farms which spent more on concentrates per head had poorer agricultural performances.

2 As a result of a breakthrough by the Animal Plant and Health Agency, bovine TB cattle vaccination trials are to begin in England and Wales leading towards deployment of a vaccine by 2025.

3 In the rolling 12 months to April, the number of new herd bovine TB incidents in England fell by 7 per cent, compared to the previous year, with falls of 6 per cent in the High risk area, 9 per cent in the Edge area and 8 per cent in the Low risk area. There was a fall of 13 per cent in Wales but a rise of 23 per cent in Scotland. The number of herds not officially TB free fell by 13 per cent in England with falls of 13 per cent in the High risk area, 15 per cent in the Edge area and 20 per cent in the Low risk area. There was a fall of 9 per cent in Wales but a rise of 22 per cent in Scotland.

4 The latest Global Dairy Trade auction saw the overall price index rise for the fourth time in succession, up 8.3 per cent, driven by a 14 per cent increase in the whole milk powder index.

5 In 2019, the UK recorded its first dairy trade surplus in volume terms although it remained in deficit in value terms. In butterfat terms, the UK is 89 per cent self-sufficient, up by 2 per cent, while in protein terms the UK is 93 per cent self-sufficient, up by 4 per cent.

6 Defra has published statistics on the characteristics of high performing dairy farms in England covering the period 2010/11 to 2016/17. Temporal changes, such as prices and weather, explained 30 per cent of performance variation while farm specific factors accounted for 70 per cent. In summary, debt bore a specific relationship to decreasing performance; organic farms performed better in both farm business and agricultural sectors; increased reliance on agri-environment scheme payments adversely affected agricultural performance; specialised dairy farms underperformed more varied farms; investment in diversification adversely affected agricultural performance; increased herd size had a beneficial effect on overall performance; and tenanted farms underperformed owner-occupied farms.

7 In June, UK prime cattle slaughterings rose by 11 per cent, compared to a year earlier, to 175,000; beef and veal production rose by 12 per cent to 80,000 tonnes; sheep slaughterings rose by 8.9 per cent to 988,000; mutton and lamb production rose by 6.2 per cent to 23,000 tonnes; pig slaughterings rose by 3 per cent to 834,000; and pigmeat production rose by 4.8 per cent to 74,000 tonnes.

8 According to the OECD and FAO, global milk production is forecast to rise by 1.6 per cent per annum this decade. India and Pakistan are forecast to contribute one-third of the growth.

9 Medina is to increase the standard litre price by 1ppl to 25.75ppl.

10 The Private Storage Aid scheme closed on 30 June. A total of 135,543 tonnes of dairy products were offered into the scheme, with skimmed milk powder accounting for 15 per cent, butter 50 per cent and cheese 35 per cent. The UK entered 1,695 tonnes of butter into the scheme and 4,499 tonnes of cheese.

11 According to Kingshay, margins over purchased feed for conventional dairy herds have increased by 24.1 per cent over the past ten years, to £1,704 per cow. Herds have recorded an increase in margins per litre of 14.3 per cent to 20.33 per litre.

12 Medina is to close Watson’s Dairy in Hampshire.

13 In June, UK dairies processed 1,222 million litres of milk with there being no change to the rolling production average but a 6.3 per cent fall compared to May. Liquid milk production fell by 4.8 per cent to 500 million litres; cheese production fell by 4.5 per cent to 43,400 tonnes; butter production fell by 16.4 per cent to 15,900 tonnes; and milk powder production fell by 9.8 per cent to 10,300 tonnes.

14 In June, average butterfat fell by 0.1 per cent, compared to May, to 3.99 per cent but was 0.2 per cent up on a year earlier. Average protein was 1.3 per cent down, at 3.27 per cent, and was 1.8 per cent down on a year earlier.

15 The Agricultural Price Index for May shows increases in cattle and calves of 1.7 per cent, compared to April, 13.7 per cent in pigs, 8.7 per cent in sheep and lambs and 5.8 per cent in eggs but there were falls of 3.4 per cent in poultry and 4.7 per cent in milk. Compared to a year earlier, there were increases of 2.4 per cent in cattle and calves and 11 per cent in sheep but falls of 1.1 per cent in pigs, 0.8 per cent in poultry and 2.7 per cent in milk.

16 China has reported promising progress in the development of a live-attenuated vaccine for African swine fever.

17 The OECD and FAO have published the latest update on the World Agricultural Outlook for 2020-2029 which states that pig meat production is forecast to rise by 16 per cent over the decade. Much of the growth will be due to recovery in Asian countries from the effect of African swine fever but increases are also expected in Brazil and the US. However, a 3 per cent decline is forecast for the EU.

18 The first outbreaks of Bluetongue virus (BTV-4) in North Macedonia since 2014 have been confirmed in sheep and goats. Outbreaks have continued in Italy.

19 Defra has launched a survey aimed at small-scale pig keepers as part of the campaign to combat the introduction and spread of African swine fever. The aim is to ascertain what small-scale pig keepers know about the disease and find out about their feeding and biosecurity practices.

20 Myanmar has reported an outbreak of African swine fever in a backyard farm of 120 pigs; China has reported an outbreak in a domestic herd of 102 pigs; the Philippines has reported four new outbreaks in backyard farms and one in a commercial unit; Vietnam has reported 181 new outbreaks involving 6,054 domestic pigs; and South Korea has reported further outbreaks in wild boar.

21 In the period April to June, 7.7 million cases of eggs were packed in the UK, 1.4 per cent down on the previous quarter and 2.9 per cent down on the same period a year earlier. The average farm-gate egg price was 78.4p per dozen, 3.8 per cent up on the previous quarter and 10 per cent up on the same period in 2019. The production of egg products totalled 16,900 tonnes, down 23 per cent on the previous quarter and down 24 per cent on the same period in 2019.

22 In June, UK commercial layer chick placings rose by 9.4 per cent, compared to a year earlier, to 3.5 million chicks; broiler chick placings fell by 1.9 per cent to 82.3 million chicks; turkey chick placings fell by 26 per cent to 1.1 million chicks; turkey slaughterings rose by 15 per cent to 900,000 birds; broiler slaughterings fell by 2.1 per cent to 78 million birds; and total poultry meat production fell by 2.8 per cent to 140,390 tonnes.

+ Inputs / Supply business

1 The Chemicals Regulation Division has given approval for the use of Funguran Progress to control late blight in organic potato crops.

2 Stoller Europe has developed ETHYDRIVE, a technology designed to reduce fruit ethylene emissions which can cause reduced calcium blockages, reduced premature physiological abscission, over-ripening and fruit senescence.

3 The Agricultural Price Index for May shows falls of 3 per cent in seeds, compared to April, 24.7 per cent in energy and lubricants, 11.4 per cent in fertilizers, 0.8 per cent in veterinary services, 3.4 per cent in animal feeding stuffs and 1.4 per cent in building maintenance but increases of 13.3 per cent in chemicals and 3.5 per cent in vehicle maintenance. Compared to a year earlier there were falls of 3.7 per cent in energy and lubricants, 2 per cent in fertilizers, 0.2 per cent in chemicals, 0.6 per cent in animal feeding stuffs and 0.3 per cent in vehicle maintenance but an increase of 0.4 per cent in building maintenance.

4 BASF has launched Nealta, a new acaricide based on cyflumetofen, which can destroy all aspects of a mite lifecycle while being compatible with beneficial mites and insects. It is approved for use on apples and protected strawberries.

5 Scientists at Gifu University in Japan believe that lemon balm water extract can aid Fusarium wilt control in strawberries.

6 Researchers at State Institute of Viticulture and Enology in Freiburg, Germany have found that the addition of potassium phosphonate to preventative fungicides increases the effectiveness against grapevine downy mildew.

+ Marketing

1 The Government has announced the members of the Trade and Agriculture Commission. It will be chaired by Tim Smith, a former Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency and Tesco Group Technical Director. It will include representatives of all the National Farmers Unions, the Ulster Farmers Union, the Farmers’ Union of Wales, the British Retail Consortium, UK Hospitality and the Food and Drink Federation.

2 UK exports of beef fell by 4 per cent in May, compared to a year earlier, but were still up 3 per cent on a rolling 12-month basis. Imports fell by 17 per cent and 12 per cent respectively.

3 A survey conducted by Which? has revealed that only 11 per cent of people from lower income households wanted access to cheap, low standard food compared to 16 per cent from more affluent households.

4 UK exports of pork fell by 2 per cent in May, compared to a year earlier, but were still up 1 per cent on a rolling 12-month basis. Imports fell by 13 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.

5 The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has reported a rise of 2.4 per cent in its monthly food price index in June, the first increase in four months. The increase is largely due to a rise in the price of sugar and vegetable oils.

6 UK exports of sheep meat fell by 19 per cent, on a rolling 12-month basis, to 6,200 tonnes. Less product was sent to Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands with a slight increase in volumes sent to Ireland. In the period January to May, exports fell by 17 per cent.

7 EU fresh/frozen pork exports rose in May by 31 per cent, compared to a year earlier, to 271,000 tonnes with shipments to China up by 107 per cent.

8 Dawn Meats is to take full control of Dunbia following the retirement of the founder of Dunbia.

+ Miscellaneous

1 Part One of the National Food Strategy has been published by Henry Dimbleby. Its recommendations include expanding the eligibility for the Free School Meal scheme to include every child up to the age of 16 from a household where the parent is in receipt of the Universal Credit; extending the Holiday Activity and Food Programme to all areas in England so that summer holiday support is available to all children in receipt of Free School Meals; increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers to £4.25 per week and expanding the scheme to every pregnant woman and all households with children under 4 where a parent is in receipt of Universal Credit; extending the work of the Food to the Vulnerable Ministerial Task Force until Jun 2021; only agreeing to cut tariffs in new trade deals on products which meet the UK’s core environmental and animal welfare standards; and setting up verification programmes to ensure that producers wishing to sell into the UK market must meet minimum standards.

2 The Farm Safety Foundation has reported a 37.5 per cent decline in farm fatalities but agriculture still has the highest rate of work fatalities accounting for 20 per cent.

3 Agricultural vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes will be exempt from driver certificates of professional competence later this year.

4 Richard Irvine has been named as the new Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer for the UK.

5 Askham Bryan has confirmed it will no longer provide education at the Newton Rigg campus from next July.

+ Postscripts

Paraprosdokians (Winston Churchill loved them) are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected; frequently humorous.

1. Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.

2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on my list.

3. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

4. If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.

5. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

6. War does not determine who is right – only who is left.

7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit … Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

8. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

+ Business Box

You pay it but HMRC doesn’t know where it goes!

MP’s are certainly getting their teeth into taxation at the moment. Following the publication of a number of reports over the past year or so, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has published ‘Management of tax reliefs’.

The report is highly critical of HM Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs on the issue of the cost and effectiveness of tax reliefs stating that neither body understands the impact of the reliefs.

At the end of 2019 there were 1,190 tax reliefs in force with an estimated annual cost of £159 billions, with the ten largest reliefs having an annual cost of £117 billions, or 5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. The reliefs can be categorised as structural, being integral to the tax system, such as the personal allowance, or as non-structural, where tax is not collected to support social or economic objectives. There were 362 non-structural reliefs in force at the end of 2019, such as reliefs on pension contributions and reliefs on research and development expenditure.

Evaluations undertaken by HM Revenue & Customs have found that relief for research and development expenditure incurred by small and medium-sized enterprises and relief for gift aid had a positive impact on taxpayers behaviour. However, entrepreneur’s relief and employment allowance, both with an annual cost of £2 billions, had negligible impact on behaviour.

In the case of pension relief, Standard Life Aberdeen advised the committee that those who most needed relief, lower-paid workers, received no relief as their incomes did not exceed the personal allowance.

The National Audit Office found that relief for research and development expenditure was abused by companies with a minimal UK presence and by poor quality and inappropriate claims, particularly those submitted by agents.

The committee has recommended a substantial increase in evaluation procedures.

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