Extreme weather that produced everything from droughts to floods globally exacted a high toll on farmers and the food supply chain in 2012 and demands that the British government rethink its country’s farm policy, argues the head of the National Farmers Union (NFU).
In his New Year message, posted on the union website, NFU president Peter Kendall has called for fresh thinking from government on farm policy as farmers and growers enter 2013 reeling from the consequences of extreme weather events around the world. “The NFU estimates the appalling weather of 2012 has led to a financial black hole on Britain’s farms amounting to a staggering £1.3 billion and, as we enter 2013, many farmers are in areas under water or facing a double-whammy of huge feed bills for their livestock,” Kendall comments.
“Climate change scientists have long predicted that agriculture will face major challenges from global warming,” he says. “Global warming is commonly thought of as a series of small, incremental temperature rises. However, there is now growing evidence that the more immediate impact, at home and abroad, will be in the form of extreme weather events such as Superstorm Sandy and the Mid-Western drought in the U.S., or the persistent flooding across much of England and Wales.”
Beyond the devastating effect on populations around the world, Kendall notes, “extreme weather will certainly also require fresh thinking from agricultural policy makers and the whole food supply chain to ensure that our farmers can adapt and our food supply is resilient.”
He suggests that better relationships and sharing of risk in the supply chain will help farmers plan in volatile and uncertain times, adding that he is encouraged by the promised appointment of the Grocery Supply Code of Practice Adjudicator and reports seeing positive moves by retailers to create meaningful long-term relationships with farmers.
“We know drought in the key production regions across the globe is the main driver for rocketing animal feed costs while in stark contrast, at home, a wash-out summer further compounded by a sodden autumn and winter has hammered production,” Kendall comments. “As farmers look out over their sodden fields this New Year’s Day, they remain generally optimistic for the longer-term, but this will be a crucial year when the building blocks for a secure food supply and resilient farming sector are put in place.”