New export opportunity for British pork producers

A new deal between British pork producers and Taiwan means farmers will be able to export produce to the country within the next few months.

Taiwan is a growing market, with imports of pork rising by 26% last year to £138m.

The deal is estimated to be worth £50m to the UK but could reach more than £100m over the next five years if the demand is strong enough.

Higher base rates to add to farm costs

Base rates have risen to 0.75% following a decision by the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee to implement a 0.25 percentage point rise.

As of June this year, UK agricultural borrowing was £18.86bn. While a lot of this would have been on fixed rate loans, if the total was subject to the 0.25-point increase, it would cost the industry an additional £471m in annual interest.

In a report for Farmers Weekly, NFU economist Anand Dossa said: “The decision is an additional factor in an already volatile environment for farm businesses. Increasing interest rates must now slow vital investment in farming’s future.

“This summer’s drought shows the importance of investing in farm businesses to improve their resilience in the face of an increasingly volatile climate.”

Potato plantings plummet in extreme weather 

GB potato plantings are expected to be 3% down on year due to the extreme summer weather, according to AHDB.

Only 119,00ha of potatoes have been planted in 2018 – the third lowest area on record. 

Concerns were also growing regarding yields which were anticipated to be around 6% down due to the dry weather, added the levy board. 

To help mitigate some of the issues, the Environment Agency has announced support for farmers by allowing a more flexible approach to water abstraction. Paul Hickey, head of water resources at the EA said: “We know that farmers are facing considerable pressures in responding to drought conditions and we want to support them by allowing them to flex their abstraction licences in the most serious cases to safeguard food production and animal welfare.”

Landowners affected by drought and fires urged to seek derogations

Farmers who have been affected by extreme weather conditions – and subsequently will be unable to meet August sowing deadlines – are being urged to get in touch with Natural England to discuss their options.

Popular options under the Countryside Stewardship scheme, such as nectar flower mix, must be established by 30 August. However, given the dry conditions this may be unachievable. 

In a report for Farmers Weekly, NFU countryside adviser, Claire Robinson said: “Farmers need to start thinking about their options. Start the conversation with Natural England to get a derogation, and perhaps a more reasonable date by which the option can be established.”

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