NFU Petition on Food Standards
The petition launched by the NFU to safeguard British farming has gained over a million signatures. The Government has repeatedly pledged that it will not allow imports of food that are produced to lower standards of food safety and animal welfare than are in force in this country and yet it has repeatedly refused to enshrine that in statute. Amendments to the Agriculture Bill to such end were defeated in the House of Commons. Hence the NFU petition, which has gained very widespread support from the general public, celebrity chefs and MPs, including Theresa Villiers, former Defra Secretary of State. “Which” magazine has described a potential US trade deal as the greatest threat to UK food safety since BSE whilst the NFU has called for an independent commission to be set up to ensure standards are not breached.
Meat Sales Soar
Sales of meat have soared during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially through independent butchers. In the 12 weeks to 17th May, beef sales rose by 27% overall but by almost 50% through butchers compared with the same period last year. Pork sales saw similar increases and, although lamb sales through supermarkets were flat, trade was up 25% through butchers. Many butchers have set up home deliveries to compete with supermarkets. It remains to be seen if this welcome trend of greater sales of high quality local meat can be retained.
Crop Yield Estimates Down
The European Union Crop Monitoring Service (MARS) has further downgraded forecasts for UK crop yields due to the very dry weather in May following on from the problems of last winter. The prediction for wheat is now 7.91 tonnes per hectare, 5% below the 5-year average, and that for spring barley at 5.66t/ha, 1.3% below the 5-year average and 11% down on last year. Although most areas have now had significant rain, it is thought to have come too late for some crops.
Lamb Prices Fall
The good weather in April and May helped the growth of lambs so that substantial numbers are now coming to market. This has pushed down prices. Prices always fall at this time of year as spring-born lambs come to the market and, although they have dropped by around 25p per kg or £20 per head, they are still significantly higher than a year ago.