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 2023


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+ Policy issues

1 A study by the Efra Committee entitled ‘Food Security’ has called on the Government to develop a suite of key food security indicators to monitor and ensure food security following a series of shocks, such as the war in Ukraine, which have ‘exposed the UK’s vulnerabilities’.

2 The UK Government has become one of the first countries to sign up to the Global Diversity Framework Fund with a contribution of £10 millions. The fund will support the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework which sets out a plan of action to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.

3 The Agriculture (Wales) Act has come into force.  

+ Reform

1 Farmers have been invited to sign up for the Sustainable Farming Incentive from 18 September.

2 The application window for 2024 Countryside Stewardship Mid-Tier agreements has been extended to 15 September.

1 The Horticultural Trades Association has released data claiming that accelerating a ban on the use of peat from 2030 to 2026 will have significant environmental and economic impacts. It claims that it could lead to a shortage of 100 million plants and trees for use in green spaces, gardens and streets across the UK. Further, a study undertaken by Oxford Economics suggests that there will be a reduction in Gross Added Value of £541 millions and a fall in tax revenues of £124 millions. In addition, 12,000 jobs could be at risk.

2 Funding totalling £16 millions has been made available to 12 new projects aimed at restoring peatlands. Projects include 26 hectares in The Butlers Marshes Restoration project on the Norfolk Broads; 170 hectares in the Dorset Peat Partnership covering the Dorset Heaths; 1,127 hectares in the Great North Bog project; 35 hectares at Somerset’s Greylake Reserve; 1,100 hectares in the North York Moors National Park; 420 hectares at Park Hall and Kinder Scout in the Peak District; 1,300 hectares in Fens East, Lincolnshire; 135 hectares on Holcombe Moor in Lancashire; and 1,370 hectares across the uplands of Cumbria and the Forest of Bowland.

3 ‘Material footprint’ is a measure of the global primary raw material extraction attributable to final domestic demand for goods and services. In 2020, England's material footprint was 783 million tonnes, 35 per cent down on the peak in 2004. Non-metallic minerals, such as sand and gravel, made up 55 per cent of the total, while biomass materials, such as crops and wood, made up 24 per cent. Of the total, 47 per cent was associated with household consumption, 31 per cent with gross fixed capital formation and 20 per cent with expenditure on government services.

4 In 2021/22, local authorities in England dealt with 1.09 million fly-tipping incidents, down 4 per cent on the previous year. Incidents involving household waste fell by 9 per cent to 671,000. Fly-tipping on highways fell by 5 per cent to 464,000. Local authorities administered 507,000 enforcement notices, up by 11 per cent, while 91,000 fixed penalty notices were issued, an increase of 58 per cent. The number of court fines increased by 190 per cent to 1,798 with the value of fines increasing by 154 per cent to £840,000.

5 A research project at the University of Warwick is investigating how ‘eco acoustics’ – the noises made by earthworms and invertebrates in the soil – can be used to help farmers better measure soil health.

6 Defra has published guidance for the third round of the Small R & D Partnerships competitions with £10 millions available. Delivered by Innovate UK and developed in partnership with the Transforming Food Production Challenge, the competition seeks to help businesses develop a new product or service and take it to commercialisation on the open market.

7 The Coronation Living Heritage Fund closes for applications on 26 September. Grants are available of between £10,000 and £50,000 for each project with a total of £2.5 millions set aside to fund local tree planting. All projects must be complete by 31 March 2025.

8 The PigProGrAm – Developing a Circular Economy for UK Pig Production Through Green Ammonia Harvesting – project has got underway. The project, with £600,000 of funding from the Farming Innovation Programme, aims to harvest ammonia from pig waste, thereby reducing ammonia emissions, but may also produce hydrogen and a high-quality fertilizer.

9 Further guidance has been published for the Feasibility Studies competition where £4.5 millions is available to support businesses and researchers through the hosting phase of an idea, checking whether it works in practice and providing help to assess whether the project has investment potential.

10 Albotherm has been awarded a grant of £500,000 by Innovate UK for a project in collaboration with Pilkington, Flavourfresh and Vitacress to develop a Smart shade coating to apply to glass which is transparent in cold weather but automatically converts to opaque in hot weather.

11 Elbow Beach Capital, the decarbonisation, sustainability and social impact investor, has awarded £1.5 millions to Fieldwork Robotics Ltd to develop robotic soft fruit harvesters.

12 During August, there have been sightings of Asian hornets in Folkestone, Maidstone, Deal, Whitstable and Portland. Nests have been destroyed relating to 5 of the 9 sightings.

1 The first forecast of Farm Business Income for 2022/23 for England has been published. For cereals farms, average income is expected to grow by 11 per cent to £134,000 and dairy farms will see an increase of 78 per cent to £249,000 but elsewhere falls are expected. General cropping farms will see a fall of 14 per cent to £125,000; lowland grazing livestock farms can expect a fall of 50 per cent to £17,000; less favoured area grazing livestock farms are facing a fall of 63 per cent to £16,000; and mixed farms will see a fall of 14 per cent to £63,000.

2 The Agricultural Price Index for May shows an increase of 0.2 per cent for outputs, compared to a year earlier, but a fall of 6.1 per cent for inputs.

3 A report by Carter Jonas reveals that the average value of grassland hit £7,683 per acre in the second quarter of this year, an all-time high, and has risen by 43.6 per cent since 2013 while the average value of arable land has only risen by 33.2 per cent.

4 Updated figures for average Farm Business Income for England for 2021/22 have been published. Cereal farms income increased by 67 per cent to £120,000; general cropping farms by 117 per cent to £145,400; dairy farms by 52 per cent to £140,000; lowland grazing livestock farms by 85 per cent to £34,000; less favoured area grazing livestock farms by 29 per cent to £42,900; poultry farms by 78 per cent to £138,000; mixed farms by 84 per cent to £74,000; and horticulture farms by 15 per cent to £60,600. However, average pig farm income fell by 75 per cent to £11,800.

5 According to Savills, 85,400 acres of lowland farmland were marketed in Great Britain in the first six months of this year, 16 per cent higher than the same period in 2022. Further, the number of 50-100 acre farms on the market has increased by 44 per cent.

6 Bank of England base rate increased by 0.25 per cent to 5.25 per cent on 3 August.

7 EcoNomad, an agri-tech start up which designs, produces and exports affordable waste-to-energy solutions to farms around the world, has secured further SEIS funding to fund investment in research and the development of new products.

+ Product prices

A Market background

1 Sterling strengthened marginally against the Euro and fell against the US Dollar but remained volatile against both. Against the Euro, having opened at 85.7p per €, Sterling hit a low of 86.7p and a peak of 85.0p before closing the month at 85.5p per € (0.2p stronger). Against the US Dollar, Sterling opened at 77.8p per $ and weakened thereafter; its low point of 79.7p was shortly before the month end but improvement in the final days saw it close at 78.9p per $ (1.1p weaker).

2 Gold prices fell in the first half of the month and recovered throughout the remainder. Opening at £1,527 per troy ounce, the average fell to a low of £1,479 before recovering to close £5 up overall at £1,532 per troy ounce.

3 Crude oil prices were more volatile this month, albeit with a relatively modest swing, ending the month by closing marginally up. Brent Crude, opening at $85.5 per barrel, hit its month’s low of $83.2 and peak of $87.5 in the first ten days. After falling back below $84, it eventually closed at $86.8 per barrel, up $1.8 overall.

B Crops

1 The cereals markets continued to hinge on the Black Sea conflict, stoking the levels of uncertainty and volatility. Ongoing hot and dry weather in the US remains of concern to wheat and maize growers and has helped prop up the market. The delayed and wet UK harvest has brought concern over milling quality wheat; average milling premiums are edging up above £70/tonne in places. Feed wheat futures fell early on and then held relatively steady, subject to minor fluctuations; the biggest reduction was in the short term. By late August, deliveries for November 2023, 2024 and 2025 were £187/tonne (-19), £198/tonne (-10) and £197/tonne (-8) respectively. Oilseed rape prices fell but recovered in the month, as the generally well-supplied market reacted first to Black Sea issues, then to reductions in Canada’s canola yield forecasts, then to US weather hampering the soyabean market. The longer-term outlook looks somewhat flat.

Average spot prices in late August (per tonne ex-farm): feed wheat £175 (-13); milling wheat £244 (-10); feed barley £158 (-2); oilseed rape £359 (-6); feed peas £205 (-20); feed beans £209 (-20).

C Livestock

1 The average live-weight cattle prices, for both steers and heifers, opened on a downward trend but soon reversed direction to close up overall. The average steer price initially fell from its opening average of 258p/kg lw to a low of 246p/kg but climbed thereafter to close at 266p/kg lw (up 8p and sitting 18p/kg above the average a year earlier). The average finished heifer price moved similarly: falling from an opening position of 268p/kg lw to 259p/kg before climbing to a closing average of 277p/kg (up 9p, to sit 22p above the average a year earlier). The average dairy cow price stayed volatile in nature but at lower levels than those seen in previous months. Climbing from the opening position of £1,117 per head to peak at £1,454, then dropping to £1,035 before climbing again to close the month at £1,386 per head (up £269 to sit £314 below the average a year earlier).

2 The new season average finished lamb price (SQQ live weight), having fallen significantly in the preceding months, levelled out at its opening position of 261p/kg lw and improved in the first half of the month to peak at 266p/kg before falling again in the latter stages to close August at 255p/kg, down 6p/kg to sit 19p/kg above the average a year earlier.

3 The average UK all pig price (APP) gained some strength after last month’s price freeze. Opening at 222p/kg dw, the average price rose to 224p/kg and remained there for much of the month, before climbing again in the final days to close at the month’s peak of 225p/kg dw (up 3p to sit 24p above the closing average a year earlier).

4 The UK average ‘all milk’ price for June was 36.48ppl; a fall of 1.10ppl from the May average (7.10ppl below the price a year earlier and 2.49ppl above the rolling 5-year average of 33.99ppl). The EU average for June was 39.22ppl; 1.55ppl below the May average and 4.40ppl below the price a year earlier.

+ Other crop news

1 The latest AHDB harvest report (29 August) shows that 89 per cent of winter wheat is in, above the 5-year average of 82 per cent; all the winter barley and winter oilseed rape is in; 80 per cent of the oat crop is in, up on the 5-year average of 69 per cent; and 59 per cent of spring barley is in, below the 5-year average of 63 per cent.

2 Defra has published cereals areas in England on 1 June. The wheat area fell by 5.3 per cent, compared to a year earlier, to 1.58 million hectares with the West Midlands seeing the largest fall at 6.3 per cent. The barley area increased by 2.2 per cent to 799,000 hectares with an increase in winter barley of 5.2 per cent but a fall of 0.5 per cent in spring barley to 408,000 hectares; all regions saw increases with the highest, 3.8 per cent, in Yorkshire and Humber. The area of oats fell by 4.2 per cent to 134,000 hectares while the area of rye, mixed corn and triticale fell by 5.6 per cent to 55,000 hectares. The area of oilseed rape increased by 6.1 per cent to 342,000 hectares and, while the spring sown area fell by 42 per cent, it only accounted for 1 per cent of the total area. While the oilseed rape area fell by 0.5 per cent in the eastern region, all other areas saw increases with the North East up 12 per cent and the South West up 10 per cent.

3 At the end of June, wheat stocks stood at 864,000 tonnes, up 46 per cent on 2022; barley stocks were 154,000 tonnes, up 99 per cent; and oats stocks were 27,000 tonnes, down 1 per cent.

4 The Agricultural Price Index for May shows increases of 24.2 per cent for potatoes, compared to April, and 18.7 per cent for fresh fruit but there were falls of 3.6 per cent for wheat, 6.7 per cent for barley, 4.1 per cent for oats, 8.7 per cent for oilseed rape and 2.1 per cent for fresh vegetables. Compared to a year earlier, there were increases of 77.9 per cent for potatoes, 37.1 per cent for fresh vegetables and 52.9 per cent for fresh fruit but falls of 26.2 per cent for wheat, 32.8 per cent for barley, 18.7 per cent for oats, 51.6 per cent for oilseed rape and 12.2 per cent for forage plants.

5 The first ever Recommended List oilseed rape verticillium stripe data has been released.

6 A further sighting of Colorado beetle larvae has been made in Kent within the original surveillance zone.

7 By the middle of August, the Fight Against Blight monitoring service, which is administered by the James Hutton Institute, had recorded 120 outbreaks of blight in potatoes.

8 B-hive innovations is to partnership with the National Physical Laboratory, with funding from Innovate UK under the Analysis for Innovators programmes, to investigate non-destructive methods of measuring turgor pressure in potatoes with a view to reducing bruising and physical damage in tubers.

9 Delivered by Hort Innovation and led by Agriculture Victoria, a £13.6 millions five-year programme will establish research sites across the country to determine whether transitioning to narrower orchard systems could bring benefits for pome and stone fruits.

10 Scientists at Australia’s Edith Cowan University have identified the hormone melatonin as a key technology in preserving the shelf life of fresh produce which can suffer from ‘chilling injury’ when in cold storage.

11 British Apples and Pears has announced a new project ‘Supporting top fruits journey to Net Zero.’ Funding from Innovate UK will be used to evaluate the apple supply chain and its implications for the environment. Lead partner, Cranfield University, will assess the life cycle of Gala applies, accounting for impacts occurring on farm and during storage as well as transportation to customer distribution centres. Others involved include Combind Industries, experts in pyrolysis and biochar production, and Carbogenics.

12 Figures from the World Apple and Pear Association reveal that, at 1 June, European apple stocks had fallen by 23.4 per cent, compared to a year earlier, to 712,212 tonnes while pear stocks had fallen by 25.4 per cent to 54,370 tonnes. Golden Delicious was down 36.5 per cent, Idared by 20.1 per cent, Jonagold by 44.7 per cent, Gala by 22.7 per cent, Fuji by 67.5 per cent and Granny Smith by 23.8 per cent. However, stocks of Cripps Pink increased by 225.6 per cent. Stocks of Conference fell by 3.7 per cent and Alexandrina by 41.1 per cent. Interestingly, UK apple stocks rose by 170.6 per cent to 28,821 tonnes.

+ Other livestock news

1 Defra has published estimates of the livestock populations in England on 1 June. The number of cattle and calves fell by 0.5 per cent, compared to a year earlier, to 5.1 million head, with falls of 1.8 per cent in the breeding herd, 0.7 per cent in the dairy herd and 3.6 per cent in the beef herd. The number of pigs fell by 12 per cent to 3.6 million head, the lowest since 2011, mainly due to a fall of 13 per cent in the number of fattening pigs while there were falls in all breeding categories apart from gilts in pig which increased by 8.9 per cent. The number of sheep fell by 3.2 per cent to 14.5 million head with lambs falling by 4.9 per cent and the female breeding flock falling by 1.6 per cent.

Poultry numbers fell by 6 per cent to 131 million birds with falls of 6.4 per cent in broilers and 1.1 per cent in breeding and laying birds. The number of turkeys fell by nearly a third to 2.4 million birds.

2 Scientists at the James Hutton Institute and the Centre for Environmental Health and Engineering have found that adding biochar to sewage and manure can help reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistant genes by more than 90 per cent.

3 The Scottish Government has made available £1,250 per farm over two years to support a health and welfare review of livestock. It also intends to increase the number of Official Veterinarians.

4 The Agricultural Price Index for May shows increases of 1.1 per cent for pigs, compared to April, and 8.1 per cent for sheep and lambs but falls of 0.1 per cent for cattle and calves, 13.4 per cent for poultry and 4.7 per cent for milk. Compared to a year earlier, there were increases of 13 per cent for cattle and calves, 26.3 per cent for pigs, 6.5 per cent for sheep and lambs, 3.4 per cent for poultry and 31.7 per cent for eggs but a fall of 7.8 per cent for milk.

5 During July, UK prime cattle slaughterings fell by 1.9 per cent, compared to a year earlier, to 166,000 head; beef and veal production fell by 3 per cent to 73,000 tonnes; sheep slaughterings fell by 11 per cent to 923,000 head; mutton and lamb production fell by 13 per cent to 21,000 tonnes; pig slaughterings fell by 15 per cent to 793,000 head; and pigmeat production fell by 15 per cent to 72,000 tonnes.

6 In the second quarter of 2023, UK calf registrations to dairy dams fell by 0.2 per cent, compared to a year earlier, to 304,823 head, the lowest Q2 figure for a decade. Compared to the 5-year average, registrations are down by 1.5 per cent.

7 The latest Global Dairy Trade Price Index fell by 4.3 per cent to $3,100 with skimmed milk powder down 1.4 per cent to $2,454, cheddar down by 1.4 per cent to $3,910 and butter down by 0.7 per cent to $4,680 but the main fall was of 8 per cent in whole milk powder to $2,864.

8 Scientists at the University of Bristol have received funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council and Defra to investigate whether artificial intelligence could be used to detect disease earlier in dairy cows, in particular mastitis and lameness.

9 An NFU survey of 600 dairy farmers has found that 23 per cent were ‘unsure’ if their business would continue producing milk beyond 2025.

10 During July, liquid milk production fell by 2 per cent, compared to June, to 1,203 million litres; cheese production fell by 0.4 per cent to 43,700 tonnes; butter production fell by 13 per cent to 17,900 tonnes; and milk powder production fell by 6.9 per cent to 11,000 tonnes.

11 Applications have opened for Entrepreneurs in Dairying, a business training course run by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers.

12 In July, average butterfat content increased by 1.8 per cent, compared to June, to 4.12 per cent and by 2 per cent compared to a year earlier. Average protein fell by 1.2 per cent, compared to June, to 3.3 per cent but was 0.5 per cent higher than a year earlier.

13 A new creamery is to be opened early next year at Haverfordwest with bottling capacity starting at 60 million litres a year and increasing to 120 million litres.

14 Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative has changed its name to Organic Herd.

15 Moredun Research Institute, in association with the University of Glasgow, the James Hutton Institute and the University of New England, Australia, is leading a £6 million project to develop a vaccine which will target gastrointestinal nematodes which cost the UK sheep industry £4 per lamb.

16 The AHDB estimated cost of pig production for April to June is 196p/kg dw with a margin per slaughtered pig of £22 per head.

17 Cases of African Swine Fever have increased markedly in the Balkan countries in the past two months. There have been 266 outbreaks in domestic pigs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 312 in Croatia, 292 in Romania and 239 in Serbia. Further outbreaks have been reported in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Moldova, North Macedonia, Poland, Russia and Ukraine.

18 AB Agri has completed the takeover of National Milk Records.

19 BCMS data shows that the share of British farms running any type of block calving system has risen to 18.7 per cent while those running an all year round system has fallen to 30.7 per cent.

20 Since mid-July, 9 new domestic poultry premises have been infected with high pathogenicity avian influenza in Great Britain. Five were in pheasant premises, two in commercial premises and one each in backyard premises and a rescue centre for wild gulls.

21 In July, an outbreak of Newcastle Disease, caused by virulent avian paramyxovirus type 1, was reported in commercial poultry in 4 premises in western Poland, the first in Poland since 1971.

22 During July, UK commercial layer chick placings fell by 6.2 per cent, compared to a year earlier, to 3.2 million chicks; broiler chick placings fell by 3.7 per cent to 106.3 million chicks; turkey chick placings rose by 5.1 per cent to 1.9 million chicks; turkey slaughterings fell by 19 per cent to 600,000 birds; broiler slaughterings rose by 4.4 per cent to 100.9 million birds; and poultry meat production rose by 2.6 per cent to 179,400 tonnes.

+ Inputs / Supply business

1 UK produced ammonium nitrate prices increased by £9 per tonne in July to £353 per tonne while the price of granular urea rose by £46 per tonne to £397 per tonne. The spot price of muriate of potash fell by £15 per tonne to £416 per tonne, the lowest in nearly two years. The spot price for diammonium phosphate fell by £40 per tonne to £519 per tonne, the lowest since May 2021.

2 The Agricultural Price Index for May shows increases of 0.4 per cent for chemicals, compared to April, 0.1 per cent for veterinary services, 0.5 per cent for equipment maintenance and 1.1 per cent for buildings maintenance but there were falls of 0.2 per cent for seeds, 3.4 per cent for energy and lubricants, 5.2 per cent for fertilizers and 0.9 per cent for animal feedingstuffs. Compared to a year earlier, there were increases of 15.7 per cent for chemicals, 4 per cent for veterinary services, 7.4 per cent for equipment maintenance and 1.5 per cent for buildings maintenance but there were falls of 2.9 per cent for seeds, 5.8 per cent for energy and lubricants, 41.3 per cent for fertilizers and 2.8 per cent for animal feedingstuffs.

3 Nygaia has received the ‘OK Compost Industrial’ certificate from TUV Austria, the substrate having proved its full degradability in industrial composting plants. The product consists of biobased and biodegradable polymers and leaves nothing behind apart from water and CO2. Nygaia substrate fibre has also received the ‘OK Biobased’ certificate confirming that it consists of 58 per cent organic materials, namely polymers from materials such as sugar cane and corn.

4 Avara Foods has decided to cease selling litter from its poultry units to be used as fertilizer on fields within the River Wye catchment area because of the impact on water quality.

5 Pyrethroid insecticide Lambdastar has been granted an approval for an Extension of Authorisation for Minor Use for use on winter and spring linseed.

6 The International Bremia Evaluation Board has added three new races of Bremia Lactucae to the official list of phytopathogens responsible for lettuce downy mildew.

+ Marketing

1 The first export of ovine genetics has been shipped to the USA at a value of about £400,000.

2 In the year to June, UK wheat exports totalled 1.576 million tonnes, the highest since 2015/16 and way above the 5-year average of 546,400 tonnes. Imports totalled 1.346 million tonnes, below the 5-year average of 1.827 million tonnes. Barley exports totalled 1.116 million tonnes, slightly below the 5-year average of 1.162 million tonnes. Maize imports totalled 2.099 million tonnes, down on the 5-year average of 2.458 million tonnes, and the lowest tonnage since 2017/18. Oat exports totalled 171,900 tonnes, more than double the 5-year average of 69,900 tonnes and the highest volume since the mid-1990s.

3 In the first six months of the year, UK food and drink exports totalled £12.103 billions, 2.8 per cent up on a year earlier and the highest ever. However, imports rose by 6.6 per cent to £30.35 billions, also a record.

4 According to Kantar, in the year to 14 May, fresh produce sales totalled £11.9 billions, 2.6 per cent up on a year earlier. However, volume sales fell by 4.7 per cent, the lowest for four years. Winners in value terms were cucumbers at 31.9 per cent, parsnips at 20.5 per cent, broccoli at 13.5 per cent, leeks at 12.6 per cent, spring onions at 12.5 per cent and lettuce at 11.5 per cent. The main loser in value terms was asparagus at 12.3 per cent. Winners in volume terms were plums and blueberries, both at 0.5 per cent. Losers in volume terms were asparagus at 17.3 per cent, cauliflower at 14.7 per cent, leeks at 12.8 per cent, courgettes at 11.8 per cent, and brussel sprouts and cherries, both at 10.5 per cent.

5 Defra has lifted reinforced inspections on shipmeats of beef, poultry and other meat products from Brazil.

6 Exports of UK pigmeat in June rose by 200 tonnes on May to 24,000 tonnes but were down 4,400 tonnes on a year earlier. In the year to date, exports totalled 151,800 tonnes, the lowest in the period since 2015. Imports fell by 600 tonnes, compared to May, to 68,100 tonnes but 5,000 tonnes up on a year earlier. In the year to date, imports total 381,900 tonnes, down 34,200 tonnes on the same period in 2022.

7 In the 4 weeks to 6 August, beef volume sales rose by 1.7 per cent through existing beef shoppers increasing their purchases. Sales of burgers fell by 23.7 per cent but demand for mince grew by 12.4 per cent, roasting joints by 7.5 per cent and steaks by 3.4 per cent. However, volume sales continue to be down compared to previous periods, for example 8.1 per cent compared to 2019.

8 UK exports of dairy products in the second quarter increased by 22,000 tonnes to 336,000 tonnes compared to a year earlier. Powdered and condensed milk products increased by 42 per cent to 14,400 tonnes; butter by 27 per cent to 16,400 tonnes; but whey fell by 6.3 per cent to 11,700 tonnes. Imports fell by 48,700 tonnes to 293,900 tonnes. Yoghurt and buttermilk fell by 36 per cent to 56,500 tonnes; milk and cream fell by 16 per cent to 81,600 tonnes; butter fell by 14.5 per cent to 11,900 tonnes; but cheese imports rose by 0.7 per cent and powdered and condensed milk by 4.6 per cent.

9 In the six months to June, sheep meat exports increased by 12.9 per cent, compared to a year earlier, to £277 millions, while volumes rose by 16.1 per cent.

10 Tesco has begun stocking ready-to-eat salad leaves produced by GrowUp Farms at its Pepperness site in Kent.

11 Wonky and surplus food brand Earth & Wheat has commenced marketing a 5kg Variety Fruit Box containing a variety of apples, pears and more exotic fruits.

12 During June, imports of beef fell by 780 tonnes on May to 19,450 tonnes and were 1,500 tonnes down on the 5-year average. However, imports were up 310 tonnes on a year earlier. Exports rose by 500 tonnes to 8,400 tonnes but were down 1,500 tonnes on a year earlier.

+ Miscellaneous

1 The NFU Mutual Crime Report has revealed an increase of 22 per cent in rural crime in 2022 at a cost of £49.5 millions. GPS theft rose by 15 per cent, quad bike and ATV theft by 34 per cent and livestock theft by 8.7 per cent. The cost of rural crime increased by 72.8 per cent in Wales and by 50.7 per cent in Northern Ireland but fell by 48.3 per cent in Scotland. Lincolnshire was the worst affected county in England with thefts valued at £2.5 millions.

2 Despite the average annual allowance rising by 12.7 per cent, from 30.5 days to 34.4 days including bank holidays, the number of annual leave days taken in the agriculture industry in the last 2 years has fallen by 8 per cent.

3 Hartbury College has received £1 million in government funding, and a further £1.4 millions to purchase specialist equipment, ahead of launching new T level courses in Land-Based Engineering, Crop Production and Livestock Production.

4 According to Digging up Britain 2023, the number of searches for pipes and cables before digging commences increased by 12 per cent in 2022 while in agriculture the increase was 38 per cent to 8,387.

5 The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has opened a consultation process concerning the rules on planning permission or permitted development rights for nursery reservoirs. The consultation closes on 25 September.

6 The former chair of the Tenant Farmers Association, Jeremy Walker, has died, aged 78, following an accident at his farm near Bridgwater, Somerset.

7 The British Potato Show will take place at Harrogate on 23-24 November.

+ Postscripts

Fun from our dear friends the Irish!

An Irish terrier saw a sign stating ‘Wet Paint’. He immediately obeyed.

Said Riley, ‘My wife is so blind, she can’t even recognise her friends until they are on top of her.’

An Irish fruit and dairy farmer sacked four of his milkmaids because they couldn’t keep their calves together. The head cowman was seriously envied.

The new bride was preparing herself for bed in the honeymoon suite when she muttered, ‘Moike, know something?’ ‘What’, he inquired breathlessly. ‘Well’, she said, ‘I think they’ve redecorated this room since I was last here.’

Sheila was told to measure her husband’s neck for collar size. She put her hands rounds and said, ‘God give me strength.’

Road sign in Cork: ‘When this sign is unr water the road is closed to traffic’.

Ulster horticulturalists have gone on strike again. They are demanding shorter flowers and double the honey.

+ Business Box

The People v the Civil Service!

It is generally acknowledged that the Treasury is the most powerful government department. It seems reasonable to follow that the Treasury Committee is the most influential of the intra-parliamentary bodies. So take note – the Committee is on the warpath regarding the cost of tax reliefs to the Exchequer and their effectiveness.

The Office of Tax Simplification was supposed to rationalise the tax system and do away with unnecessary reliefs but it achieved nothing of note and, not surprisingly, has been abolished.

The Committee has identified 1,180 tax reliefs of which 841 are ‘structural’, such as the Personal Allowance, while 339 are ‘non-structural’, such as Pension Scheme contributions.

The top five ‘structural’ reliefs and their annual cost are the Personal Allowance £119bn; National Insurance thresholds (2) £61.3bn; Capital Allowances £24.8bn; Inheritance Tax Nil Rate Band £23.6bn; and VAT zero-rating on finance and insurance £16.3bn.

The top five ‘non-structural’ reliefs and their annual cost are Private Residence Relief £35.2bn; National Insurance on pension contributions £27.8bn; Pension scheme income £27bn; VAT zero-rating on food £22.5bn; and VAT zero-rating on new houses £16.9bn.

Unfortunately, HMRC only publishes the cost data of 365 reliefs leaving us in the dark as to the cost of the remaining 815. The Public Accounts Committee has previously said that tax reliefs ‘are not sufficiently evaluated to ensure they are delivering what was intended when they were introduced.’ Is this how you run your business? I think not.

It is recognised that there is considerable scrutiny of Government expenditure, with the National Audit Office in the lead, but little, if any, scrutiny of what Government gives away.

Somewhat disturbingly, the Committee cites the examples of the interaction of Agricultural Property Relief for Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax and the interaction of Business Property Relief for Inheritance Tax when investing in AIM shares as examples which ‘do not appear to be meeting the policy objective they were originally set for’.

The Committee acknowledged the comments of contributors that simplification of the reliefs system would lead to more accountability and a reduction in abuses.

One day, a brave person will grasp the nettle. But up against the Treasury, he or she is unlikely to last very long!

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