Low prices and cashflow ‘biggest challenge’ for farmers

Industry leaders have called on the government to help farmers deal with lower market prices and cashflow concerns.

The National Farmers Union President Meurig Raymond has responded to a recent report by the House of Commons environment, food and rural affairs select (Efra) committee, which has criticised the Rural Payment Agency (RPA) for delays in basic payments to farmers.

The Efra report said farmers would face further cashflow problems unless problems were rectified at the RPA. The conclusion of the report was reached after a three-month investigation by the committee into low farmgate prices, particularly in the dairy, sheep and pig sectors.

NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “The fall in prices and associated cashflow problems are the biggest challenges currently facing our farmer members. And we are not expecting the market situation to get better any time soon.”

“We are pleased the Efra committee has listened to our evidence and to others from across the supply chain and produced this wide-ranging report.

“There is no quick fix. However, the report identifies a range of recommendations that can help in the short term and not leave the industry so exposed in the future.”

The report revealed that current legislation surrounding origin labelling has the potential to mislead consumers and cause confusion, which could affect farmers particularly considering the growing interest in the provenance of food and in British products by consumers in the UK and overseas. It called for a move towards clearer labelling.

Other recommendations include better pricing models, longer-term relationships in the supply chain and a greater emphasis on exports.

Mr Raymond said that the report needed to be followed up with positive, visible and tangible actions by the government, suppliers and retailers.

He added: “It is vital the industry comes together to deliver these recommendations to support farmers through these difficult times. Genuine improvements, transparency and commitment would give farmers more confidence.”

The Department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) said the government had implemented a range of measures to help farmers during the economic downturn and was committed to assisting them in future.

A Defra spokeswoman said: “We recognise that many farmers are suffering financial difficulty in the face of volatile global prices.

“We want to help find ways through this difficult time to build a thriving, resilient industry that is able to take advantage of the growing demand for British produce both at home and overseas.”