Prince’s Countryside Fund predicts tough times ahead for 90% of British farmers
NewsMonday 18 March 2013
According to the Prince’s Countryside Fund, British agriculture is facing a wider crisis than the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak of 2001. The charity stated that around 90% of farmers could be affected.
The charity, which was established by the Prince of Wales in 2010, is working hard to coordinate welfare efforts for families in dire need.
Tor Harris, the director of the fund, spoke to the Guardian saying: "This crisis is unique because it's so broad. There have been others in the past but they have affected particular groups, such as livestock farmers. This affects upland and lowland farmers and even arable farmers, which is something we haven't seen in a very long time. Nearly every farmer is going to be touched by this over the next year or 18 months."
The charity has stated that farming is facing a perfect storm. They were recently affected by the second wettest year on record in England in 2012 and this has led to the spread of diseases in livestock, including bovine TB and Schmallenberg in sheep.
On top of these issues, there are also commercial pressures, with retailers driving prices down due to the state of the economy. This factor is also made worse when combined with the fact that the cost of animal feed has shot up by 40%.
The result of these issues sees farmers’ incomes being reduced and according to Defra, some livestock farmers have seen their incomes cut by more than 50% to only £14,000 a year. Dairy farmers have seen decreases of more than 40%.
At the end of 2012, the Prince responded to the crisis by convening a meeting of agricultural charities at Clarence House. He agreed to divert the £150,000 emergency fund, offered by the charity to help support projects involving landscape and agriculture, to help farming families. This was then matched by the Duke of Westminster, when he also offered up £150,000.
Corporate partners to the charity, including Asda, Waitrose and HSBC, have also made donations which have brought the fund to around £500,000.
Agriculture expert Lord Curry chaired the Labour government’s inquiry into food and farming after the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001 and is now a fund trustee. He told the Guardian: "We know it's going to affect farmers for this year and next year. For the farming charities, this has become a very serious issue.”
Curry continued: "What we have is adequate in the short term but won't meet need over the next 18 months." The prince's fund is calling on the public to help raise the fund to £1m.
Some people are accusing the supermarkets of making the issue even worse by paying low rates for produce in order to keep shop prices down, however, the crisis is expected to lead to price rises for consumers.
The harvest of wheat has fallen by almost 15% and much of what was grown was of very poor quality due to a lack of sunlight during the growing period. While 90% of the British wheat harvest in 2011 was good enough to be milled for flour, in 2012 only 10% was of sufficient quality. This has left food manufacturers having to shop abroad, at the mercy of international markets.
Picture: Scott Robinson