Supermarkets shear farm prices

The harvest is gathered in - but at what price?

 Within a few days of our wheat from the last harvest being loaded into lorries for a rather dismal price and transported to a millers in Corby, the combines were rolling again into this year’s crop. Early indications show that the yields and quality are looking good, but we already know from past experiences of a bumper crop, that sometimes less is more!

Agricultural prices have taken a tumble in the last year, although I doubt as consumers you would have noticed. Is the price of your bread or breakfast cereal lower due to the wheat price being 40% down; or has the price of milk been reduced now that dairy farmers are being paid a pittance of 10p per pint for it? Lamb is still selling for around £11/kg, but as a sheep farmer we barely see over £3/kg.

The supermarkets have expanded rapidly over the past two decades, but in reality they have taken their customers as mugs and bullied their suppliers. The dairy farmers have finally had enough and are doing a fantastic job of exposing the shocking truth with great dignity and restraint. They have certainly rattled some supermarkets’ feathers, who now are trying hard to rebuild their image.

Amazingly the milk buyers are blaming a world oversupply of dairy products for their blatant underpayment for milk but, by the same presumption – with bottled water being more expensive than milk – does that mean there is a shortage of rain? I know what I would sooner have on my overpriced corn flakes in the morning.

On the rest of the farm the hay has been made, although this year was a very small crop due to the lower than usual rain supply in the early summer months; the sheep have been shorn, and the lambs have just been weaned from their mothers. It’s quite an easy life being a sheep. You look after your off spring for four months and then spend the rest of the year eating . . .  or finding different ways to die, which appears to be a sheep’s main ambition in life!

I have also hosted a few interesting farm visits in the last month, starting with some Australian farmers that farmed an impressive 20,000 acres. The reality was that their farm carried less livestock than ours and they needed 20 acres for each cow against our one acre. This was followed by a visit from a few French agricultural journalists who were reporting on this area’s grass fed livestock and finally we hosted Nikki Gammon’s Annual Bumblebee Farm Tour. Nikki has done a fantastic job at encouraging farmers to grow pollen and nectar wildlife margins around their crops, with the resulting increase in bee numbers being a great success.

We have helped the bees, so maybe it’s time the women of Rye helped the dairy farmers by taking a leaf out of Cleopatra’s and Elizabeth the First’s lifestyles. They regularly bathed in milk to make their skin look younger and healthier . . .  more milk please milkman!

Simon Wright is a farmer at East Guldeford where he and his wife Ann also run holiday cottages. Click here  to visit their website