"The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not mean all who were laughed at were geniuses. They laughed at Columbus. They laughed at Fulton. They also laughed at Bozo the clown." Carl Sagan
In week ended 5th January, the deadweight prime cattle average price levelled on the week at 365.0p/kg. read more
As domestic lamb continues to compete with increased volumes of cheaper imports and demand remains subdued, DW lamb prices eased in week ended 5th January. read more
World prices eased back towards the end of 2012 although remained at levels comparable to the same period in 2011. read more
Having shot to record levels during September and October, GB finished pig prices continued to rise in November and early December, albeit more slowly. read more
The GB weekly average price rose by £4.63/t to £227.93/t and the free-buy average fell by £4.45/t to £330.74/t. read more
Mid-January saw the release of much-anticipated information from the USDA in the form of world supply and demand estimates, US winter wheat plantings, final 2012 production estimates and quarterly stocks. read more
The USDA data set a bearish tone for oilseed markets with upward revisions to US and Brazilian crops. read more
UK malting barley export prices are at €245/t FOB (spring, South Coast) w/e 11th April. read more
The latest National Statistics produced by Defra on the activity of UK hatcheries and poultry slaughterhouses. read more
USDA’s latest quarterly stocks report, released on 28th September, estimated US maize stocks (at 1st September) at 25.1m t, down 12% on the same point in 2011 and the lowest since 2004. read more
John Sheaves’s roots are firmly embedded in farming. Brought up on a small West Country dairy holding and then farming himself for 15 years, he knows only too well how tough the industry can be. But today, as chief executive of Taste of the West, the regional food hub, he is in a position to do something about it.
“The UK’s agricultural industry faces serious challenges, particularly in the dairy sector with lower milk prices and with regard to TB in cattle,” says Mr Sheaves.
“We will not have the resources to produce quality food in the future if we don’t start tackling these fundamental issues now.
“But the future market outlook is more optimistic than it has been for years. The domestic market for local and regional produce is thriving, worth £4.5bn and expected to rise to £5.5bn by 2012.
“The world population continues to expand so food produced in the UK will be in greater demand. Coupled with global warming and the anticipated competition for water, UK farmers will be well placed to produce quality products for domestic and world markets.”
Further openings are found in the UK procurement market, which is under pressure to source more regionally produced food.
“Farmers in the UK are good at growing and producing quality food, but are less strong when it comes to selling it,” comments Mr Sheaves. “They need to become more savvy in the marketplace, ensuring market expectation is met through research to establish whether demand exists and combining quality and integrity at the right price point.
“The premium end of the market has commanded a great deal of growth and we now need more affordability. We have seen a consumer shift away from organic, but provenance has not suffered in the same way and needs to be made affordable to more people.”
Taste of the West was established in 1991 by, among others, the NFU, and enjoyed over a decade of funding. But the recession has led to a contraction in public finances as the
Government strives to cope with its debt burden and has forced the group to expedite plans to become an independent commercial group. Membership is thriving, with 800 West Country producers on its books in 2009 compared with 350 three years ago.
“In today’s economic climate, money to help farmers with marketing won’t come from the public purse, so it’s down to producers to look at their businesses and plough some of their own revenue into telling consumers about their products,” says Mr Sheaves.
One option is to join producer groups such as Taste of the West, which are beginning to operate as cooperatives, and help members flourish through building food supply chains, boosting demand for locally sourced products and offering consultancy and marketing services. Many smaller producers struggle to find a route to market and the 50,000 farm holdings in the South-West are particularly regionally challenged,” he explains.
“There was a need to increase trade development by pooling resources and setting up a central distribution hub. We had gaps in knowledge and experience when it came to distribution so partnered with a distribution company, J&R Foodservice, which offered expertise and installed a computer programme that eased logistical challenges.”
After a successful trial the hub was set up in Exeter, Devon. Deals have been negotiated with nine Mole Valley Farmers stores and Budgens, while Taste of the West is in discussions with Waitrose and other multiples.
“Organisations similar to Taste of the West exist all over the UK and we collaborate and meet regularly,” Mr Sheaves says. “We’re likely to work more closely together in the future to supply national markets.
“I anticipate membership will continue to increase as producers realise the benefits of joining regional marketing bodies.”
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