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Posts Tagged ‘farming’

I thought I might write about a BBC series which finished today, The Fisherman’s Apprentice with Monty Halls. It’s been a pretty thoughtful look at various issues within the fishing industry. I don’t think it went far enough in critiquing government policy and I feel that Hall’s idea to save sustainable fishing (Community Supported Fisheries) is the kind of consumer-led, niche idea that can’t really hope to revolutionise the whole industry. But, overall, it has been pretty good TV.

However, I couldn’t watch all of the last episode tonight as it had been rescheduled to make way for a brand new series, Our Food, in which “Giles Coren looks at how food is grown across the UK”.

I had seen the trailers for the series and had expected a well-photographed, rose-tinted view of agriculture, perhaps with some naive assertions about how people should really think about buying more organic and local food.

However, I was shocked at the content of this programme. It seemed to act as a cheerleader for industrialised agriculture and thus showed uncritical support for many of the things which are wrong with the way food is produced in Britain. (more…)

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As part of my proposed research into the future of agricultural employment in the United Kingdom, I will need to look at the historical issues over land ownership. I want to show how this history might put the country in a poor position with regards to any attempted trend towards smaller, more sustainable farms and away from larger farms with their increased environmental damage and greater social inequality.

Land ownership is not a common topic of discussion in the UK, which makes books such as Kevin Cahill’s Who Owns Britain all the more interesting. Cahill has much experience as a wealth and rich list researcher, having worked on the original Sunday Times Rich List and many others since.

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Meat market

Things are looking worrying for livestock farmers in Japan. The price of corn on the world market has risen rapidly and the Japanese government has responded by increasing the floor price of domestic, corn-fed pork and beef for a second time this year.

Japan imports almost all of its animal feed and so the price of corn here is being further affected by the rising price of oil, in the form of increased freight fees. It imports 93% of its corn from the United States. The other main ingredient in animal feed is soya, which is also mostly imported. From Bloomberg:

“Without additional support from the government, supply of domestically produced milk and other livestock products will eventually become unavailable to consumers,” Nobuhiro Suzuki, the chairman of the ministry’s livestock panel, told reporters…

This view is supported by groups representing farmers:

“An increasing number of livestock farmers are abandoning their business because feed and other costs have exceeded their incomes,” said Masataka Ishiguro, vice secretary general at National Confederation of Farmers Movements, representing over 40,000 farmers in Japan.

This confederation is NOUMINREN, also sometimes referred to as Japan Family Farmers Movement.

As the cost of feed continues to rise, the family farmers represented by NOUMINREN can either give up on farming altogether or move away from livestock and towards more sustainable produce, such as rice, fruit or vegetables. However, even if they wanted to diversify, there are signs that the Japanese government is not keen on supporting small-scale farmers any longer.

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A change is needed

As rice prices continue to surge, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have been calling for a summit to discuss the crisis in the world food situation.

Groups such as Canada’s National Farming Union (NFU) are commenting that it is becoming clear that the whole fabric of food production needs to change. Darrin Qualman, NFU’s research director, was interviewed by Inter Press Service (IPS):

“The food production system is designed to generate profits, not produce food or nutrition for people,” Qualman told IPS.

He says there are enormous amounts of food stored in central Canada’s farming heartland, but thousands of people there, including some farm families, are forced to rely on food banks. (more…)

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Rising food prices

The worldwide price rises in food are beginning to have a serious effect in Japan. Last year the government raised the price at which it sells imported wheat to millers for the first time since 1983. In November, the country was forced to use emergency funds to support noodle-makers, bakers and breweries.

Now butter is running out due to the price of animal feed increasing. The government is again raising wholesale wheat prices this month, this time by about 30%. This will further inflate the price of what little butter is available. The prices of soy beans and cooking oil have also surged, leading some restaurants to buy in bulk.

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