How the Ukraine war, UK heatwaves and useless governments hurt farmers
The weather may have returned to some sense of normality but the effects of the UK’s hottest day on record can still be seen.
Last Friday morning, I took my dog to be groomed. The drive there, of around half-an-hour, is through the countryside that separates Rotherham and Barnsley. During the summer, the fields are typically filled with crops basking in the morning sun, but those crops couldn’t be seen. Instead, a black blanket covered the fields.
The blackness was the aftermath of a field fire that had decimated the cereal growing in the ground. We already know that farmers are forgotten about in the UK. They don’t get the support they need from the government as they can’t compete with the prices of imported goods. Now these neglected farmers are seeing their already-poor profits slashed by fire damage to their crops and buildings.
One farmer told the BBC that he’d lost £40,000 worth of crops, thanks to a fire during the heatwave. He’s hoping he’ll be able to claim this money back via his insurance. He added, ‘There needs to be extreme care when people are out in the countryside, because anything can catch fire in this weather.’ Luckily, he didn’t have more damage to contend with, thanks to his local fire department. A neighbouring farmer even ploughed some of his own field to create a block, to stop the fire from spreading further.
Even when crops don’t end up on fire, yields are significantly lower, thanks to extreme weather. The quality of a crop can also be affected by soaring temperatures and a lack of rain. Breaking even is hard enough for farmers, even when weather conditions are on their side. Government grants and subsidies are literally helping some of them survive.
When you add these struggles to a cost-of-living crisis, it makes for grim reading. You’d think the government would push for more British-grown food, but the opposite is true. Farmers’ fields simply represent a waste of land where poorly-built new homes could be erected, in the eyes of ministers.
It’s not just the UK that will suffer from reduced yields, but also the rest of Europe. Prices are already ridiculous, and chances are this will only get worse. Soybean, sunflower, and corn are said to have been hit the hardest and will see the most negative percentage difference.
The war in Ukraine has also put further pressure on the issues plaguing farmers. We’re all experiencing the brutal expense of both petrol and diesel—something farmers will also feel when they fill up their tractors and other farm vehicles. Fertiliser, an essential component of farming, has also risen in price dramatically.
That’s just arable farmers…what about those who raise cattle? Feed has increased in price and impacted farmers’ already-non-existing profits. Keeping young cattle warm is also more expensive now, thanks to the increase in the cost of energy. All this is on top of the same issues arable farmers face.
Filling a 25,000L tank with fertiliser used to cost £6,000. It now costs £21,000, a 350% increase. This simply isn’t sustainable for farmers who were already struggling before any international wars, cost of living crises, and pandemics.
I’d recommend watching Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon Prime. Whilst Jeremy Clarkson can be a polarising character, he does a very good job of educating people on the struggles UK farmers face. Should you find yourself with some free time, give it a watch.
The entire country is feeling the negative effects of our struggling economy right now, but let’s not forget about our fantastic farmers, whose voices often go unheard.
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