Memorandum submitted by Derek Mead (SFS 67)
It is about time someone considered that with a population of 60 million people, it is vital that we should have a secure food supply. Some people estimate that our country's self sufficiency is less than 55% and that we are only 3 days away from anarchy if food supplies were stopped from coming into this country.
I have been very concerned about this issue for many years. I am founder member of Farmers for Action and have been on the NFU Council for the past 6 years. I feel that we are weak and are controlled by the supermarkets, who have recently been driving British producers out of business.
The main NFU representatives are more concerned about lap-dogging to the supermarkets, to maintain their supermarket margins and have no respect from Defra. They are more worried about their non-executive directorships. We need stronger representation. The supermarkets are very well run and convenient for the public, although I would argue not necessarily the cheapest.
A perfect example of the supermarkets' power is the downward pressure on the price of milk. In Britain we only produce 83% from our own milk supplies and we are 1.5 billion litres below quota. We are loosing 100 milk producers each year, both small and large operations, because we have no real sustainable future to maintain the businesses properly.
I have recently been given a figure that suggests that the current realistic cost of milk production is 29.7 ppl. Whereas the milk buyers are pushing down the price they are prepared to pay to farmers by up to 2.2 ppl. This means that the standard price from 1 February 2009 will be around 24.8 ppl, when it costs nearly 30 ppl to produce.
The dairy industry is not the only sector that is suffering. We have seen our national pig herd decrease from 900,000 sows to c 400,000. The same can be seen with poultry and eggs. Beef prices are back to pre-BSE levels, but only because we have stopped South American beef imports because of their continued F&M status.
Defra are continually treating farmers as second-class citizens. We have a major problem with bTB and the next thing will be the co-responsibility levies. We will have to pay this, without any consultation or the strengthening of port of entry controls. The farmers haven't been the ones to bring F&M back into this country. It was through Defra's irresponsibility and the food industry's import from endemic countries.
I have covered a range of different issues in the above and I would be very pleased to attend an Efra Committee meeting in order to have the opportunity to share my views.
I am a Somerset farmer, with 1700 acres, 350 dairy cows, sheep and arable. I also have a farm shop complex and an open farm, with the aim of educating the public on farming and where our food comes from. In addition, I have recently built the Sedgemoor Livestock Auction Centre, the largest of it's kind in the South West. I have an extensive cross section of experience.