The latest news about food, farming and the countryside
02/12/2022 - Cost of food production, free-range turkeys, equine stud
Farmers earn less than a penny a pack for much of the food they produce for supermarkets, according to a new report 'Unpicking Food'. The charity Sustain says it’s often less than one per cent. They say supply chains are too long and complex, resulting in producers losing out. For instance, the report says a 480 gram pack of supermarket cheddar costs a dairy farmer £1.48 to produce, yet he receives less than a penny of the £2.50 selling price.
One of the consequences of the bird flu outbreak has been a flurry of news stories about a shortage of turkeys for Christmas. 'Christmas Dinner at Risk!' warned headlines after the British Poultry Council predicted 'big big shortages', because around half of the free-range poultry grown for this year’s dinner plates has either died or been culled due to the disease. But the widespread publicity about shortages has had unintended and undesirable consequences for some small-scale turkey farmers. Paul White produces around 500 free-range turkeys near Burnley in Lancashire, but he says he's only sold 10 per cent of his birds, when normally he'd have sold half by now. He says customers are panicking about shortages and buying frozen turkeys in supermarkets.
Equine vet Emma Tomlinson runs a stud and an IVF clinic for horses in Gloucestershire, alongside a mobile equine vet service. On 150 acres of organic pasture - which was once her dad’s dairy farm - she's created an international business, collecting and storing semen from stallions, harvesting eggs and transplanting embryos in mares. It's a top-end service for top-end clients - show jumpers, polo ponies, eventers and dressage horses. She says when she started the business 20 years ago, she was the first commercial embryo transfer service in England.
01/12/22 - Rural Payments Agency strikes, farriers
Staff at the Rural Payments Agency look set to strike for a month over Christmas, just as they’re meant to be sending out crucial Basic Payment cheques to farmers.
All this week we’re talking about horses. Today we hear from a farrier and discuss why some are promoting leaving horses 'barefoot'.
Presented by Caz Graham and produced by Beatrice Fenton.
30/11/2022 Avian flu and turkeys, forestry, conservation grazing.
Nearly half the free-range turkeys being produced for Christmas in the UK have been culled or died because of avian flu. that was the message from the poultry industry to the Environment Food and Rural Affairs select committee which has been taking evidence about the spread of bird flu. But one turkey farmer who wants to cull his turkeys early, to avoid the risk, says he is struggling to get hold of the Animal and Plant Health Agency to ensure he can slaughter his birds in time for Christmas.
It was a year ago that Storm Arwen struck the North East of England and Eastern Scotland causing three deaths, and damaging swathes of woodland and countryside, with power cuts for hundreds of thousands of homes. The first official report showing how much damage was caused to woodland by Storm Arwen is being published by the government . The chairman of the Forestry Commission is calling for landowners to plant more diverse woodlands, that can better withstand climate change.
Conservationists are using horses to graze land and encourage biodiversity. They say ponies graze in a way which creates a perfect habitat for insects, reptiles and small mammals. Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust says that by using Welsh Mountain ponies on a reserve near Cirencester, they've managed to reintroduce a rare species of butterfly.
29/22/2022 Pigs; dwarf wheat; Clydesdale horses
Pig producers are still facing difficult times. Although the price they receive has gone up, pig farmers are reported to be losing on average £33 per animal. The AHDB estimates the sector's lost £750 million over the past two years. It's now reported that major processors, Cranswick, are spending £4 million recruiting and training 400 butchers from the Philippines for their factories in Hull and Norfolk. There are also reports that the Danish pig herd has dropped to its lowest level in 22 years. and a significant amount of pork is imported into the UK from Denmark.
As Avian flu continues to hit farmed and wild birds, Wales and Northern Ireland join the rest of the UK this week, in having to house all domestic and commercial poultry.
Since the 1960's 'green revolution', farmers have been planting wheat which is shorter - or dwarfed varieties - which means they don't fall down in the field. However, climate change and lower water tables mean farmers need to plant wheat deeper in the ground and sometimes these dwarf varieties fail to emerge at all. Now scientists at John Innes in Norwich have isolated a gene which can be bred into new varieties without gene editing, which means the plants are still short but have better early growth to improve emergence.
Clydesdale horses are a native breed of Scotland, originally bred for heavy farm and industrial work. Now they're now on the Rare Breeds Survival Trusts' "at risk" register. The World Clydesdale Show in Aberdeen brought together more than 300 animals from all over the country, Europe - and even North America. An underground car park was turned into a giant livery yard and vintage machinery store for the week. Nancy Nicolson spoke to the breeders who champion Clydesdales around the world.
28/11/2022: The application of science in farming, food in Wales and equine business
There should be a national body to deliver science more quickly to farmers - that’s the conclusion of a report looking at ways to boost productivity and innovation on UK farms. The Application of Science Report says the current system is too fragmented and the UK is falling behind other countries. Lord Curry of Kirkharle who chaired the working group behind the report tells Charlotte Smith that there is an urgent need for farms to boost productivity.
Farmers, food producers and campaigners have been discussing a better food system for Wales. Farming Today has a report.
And we begin a week looking at all things equine, hearing how the cost of living crisis and the spiralling cost of keeping a horse, is making life difficult for owners of riding schools and stables.
Presenter: Charlotte Smith
Producer: Alun Beach
Editor: Dimitri Houtart
26/11/22 - The eggs shortage, seasonal workers and game shooting
The difficulties in the egg supply chain continue, with some supermarkets rationing eggs while others import them from Europe. The British Retail Consortium has been saying avian flu is disrupting supply - but farmers say it's because egg producers are losing money on every egg they sell. They say the cost of the ingredients for feed alone has risen by 90% since 2019 - while they're being paid only 35% more. As a result, many are reducing the number of hens they have or even pausing production entirely. The NFU is calling for Government intervention.
It's not just the cost of producing eggs that's rising - a report from consultants, Promar International, says the cost of producing fruit and veg in the UK is up by 27% year on year. We hear from one farmer who is concerned about his labour costs for next year. The National Living Wage will be increased from April, and it's not yet clear what that will mean for seasonal workers here on temporary visas, who this year had to be paid above the minimum wage.
And the Scottish Government is consulting on plans to introduce licences for grouse moors. Under the proposals - which follow a string of illegal killings of birds of prey - there would be new rules on muirburn, or heather burning. We hear from campaigners who want reform, and visit one grouse moor to discuss the future of the industry.
Presented by Charlotte Smith
Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Heather Simons
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