‘Producing a Christmas roast doesn’t fund a 4 by 4’

December 31, 2014


Costs of Christmas meal

STARTLING FACTS: Here is part of the Farmers Weekly article featuring the supermarket price and the farmgate price. It is a bit difficult funding a four by four vehicle on these returns.



Liz Truss

ACTION NEEDED: Environment minister Liz Truss spoke supportive words of buying local produce at the Conservative Party conference in September 2014 but has been short on delivery in protecting producers and growers from having their products devalued.



Christmas turkey

SHORT CHANGED: This prepared turkey read for the oven will have only just between below half and two thirds of its value paid to its producer. 



CRITICS of the food industry claiming many of its participants are rolling in money may have to eat humble pie this week.

I say this after one of my contacts, Somerset beef farmer, Dennis Jones posted a link on social media detailing the disparity of costs of a Christmas meal from what the farm gate price (what the producer receives) and when it leaves the supermarket chain – this is courtesy of Farmer’s Weekly.

Mr G Myers posted this reply on Sky News in response to an item about profits dripping away from dairy farmers’ pockets and it shows much public ignorance of the economics of the food supply chain.

He said: “Ha! Profits dripping away. If you had listened to farmers over the last 20 years, you would have thought none of them had ever made a profit. So who pays for all those premium four by four vehicles they simply must have.”

There is saying that goes something like this. Try researching your subject in full before making an ill-advised knee-jerk response.

Judging by some recent surveys that have been carried out in recent years and due to ignorance of the seasonality of certain foods, some members of the general public think all food is grown all year around in the UK just because they see it stacked on supermarket aisles.

To illustrate what I am saying. Back in 2010 I wrote a column for the Western Gazette about these concerns. It was based on a report commissioned by the Eden Inspires campaign to encourage young people to reconnect with food production, nature conservation and the countryside.

At the time some of the respondents (49 per cent) thought cows hibernated and more than half were convinced grey squirrels were indigenous to this country.

It goes to show there should be more opportunities like Open Farm Sunday and school visits to working farms; nature reserves, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks.

Other facts found that 45 per cent didn’t know the earth took one day to rotate on its axis; 22 per cent were unaware that trees produced oxygen and 26 per cent couldn’t connect horse chestnut trees with conkers.

So with these large discrepancies in the supply chain, who is exactly getting subsidised, Mr Myers? It isn’t the farmer. I would have thought that the processor or packaging firm employee has the keys to the four by four.

Perhaps he or someone else could explain how a beef rib roast can be sold by a supermarket at £16.52 per kg and the farmer or producer only receives £3.55 per kg, which equates to 21 per cent of its final value. Surely the product has been devalued because of the low price he or she has received.

Let’s focus on vegetable growers. Brussels sprouts, potatoes and red cabbage are sold at £1.99; 67 and 74 per kilo by the supermarket chain and yet the producer is receiving 50-61p per kilo; 8-12p and 36p per kilo respectively.

Disgracefully mature cheddar cheese is being sold at £6.62 per kg by the supermarket chain concerned and the cheese maker gets £1.39 or 21 per cent of the supermarket value.

On release of these figures on line by Dennis via The Farmer’s Weekly, John France said: “Quite shocking as the farmers do 90 per cent of the work for 20 to 30 per cent of the return.”

Environment minister Liz Truss was quoted at the Conservative party conference saying this: “We are growing wheat more competitively than the Canadian prairies. We produce more varieties of cheese than the French. I want to see us eat more of our own food here in Britain.

“At the moment we import two thirds of all of our apples and nine tenths of all our pears. We import two thirds of our cheese. That is a disgrace.” Fine words Liz but the guys of the Farmers For Action and for that matter the NFU want to see some action and fast.

Then to gobble the argument up once and for all, look at the bronze turkey. The customer pays £7.50-£12 per kilogram for a free range bird yet the grower will receive £5-£7.50.

Food producers work very hard for what seems very little in return and get attacked when they dare to complain but it seems those who do have arguments have theirs based on sand, not solid rock.

If you’re reading this and are in a position to do something about it, invest in education and in our food production otherwise see our food prices double; our countryside fall into disrepair and be blackmailed by foreign food cartels and our rural tourism suffer. So if you see a fork in the road, choose the right one.

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