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NFUS welcomes First Minister on farm to discuss farming crisis

The extent of the issues currently facing the whole of the agricultural industry, compounded by the adverse weather this year, were stressed to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on farm today (Wednesday 26 August).
 
NFU Scotland met with the First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead at NFUS member Hamish Dykes’ sheep farm at South Slipperfield, West Linton.  Following a farm visit, they were joined round the farmhouse kitchen table by other farmers representing all aspects of Scottish agriculture. 
 
The Union discussed with the First Minister the extent of the pricing crisis across all farming sectors in Scotland and the need for retailers, the food service sector and food and drink manufacturers to put Scottish produce on their shelves, menus and use it as an ingredient in order to make Scottish produce as widely available to consumers as possible.
 
The cash flow issues now facing many businesses was highlighted with assurances sought that Single Farm Payments will be paid to farmers within the normal December window.
 
There was recognition of a need to back agriculture to ensure our food and farming sectors remain a successful cornerstone of the Scottish economy, both now and in the future.
 
NFU Scotland has asked the First Minister to take forward the following points:
 
The supply chain is dysfunctional and retailers must adopt a strategic approach to preserve and promote the long term ability of Scotland to produce food rather than being opportunistic and jeopardising production by taking advantage of price swings. 
 
Food and drink manufacturers who pride themselves on selling Scotch produce must ensure that they have procedures in place to ensure they are sourcing Scottish ingredients and give sourcing commitments back farmers.
 
There is a cash flow crunch facing farming businesses and government must ensure that it delivers Single Farm Payments within the normal timeframe.
 
Consumers find it difficult to know where the produce they buy comes from. The retail sector and food service companies should address their brands and product labelling; this was recognised by the First Minister.
 
Discussing the problems within their sector with the First Minister were Jackie McCreary of Yester Farm Dairies, East Lothian; Sarah Allison, Agri Affairs spokeswoman for Scottish Association of Young Farmers Club; cereal farmer from East Lothian Willie Thomson; Sybil Macpherson, hill sheep farmer from Dalmally, Argyll and chairwoman for National Sheep Association; and Roy Brown, mixed beef, sheep and arable farmer and NFU Scotland Lothian and Borders livestock committee representative. 
 
Hamish Dykes, who runs the upland unit of 1,000 acres with his wife Susie and their children and Hamish’s parents, spoke about previously having employees working on the farm, and over the years this has dwindled to now having just the family working. He stressed that with cost cutting measures constantly being put in place at farm level, there is only so much you can do.  He warned that without risk and reward being better shared across supply chains, it will the farmers that go next. 
 
NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie commented: “Volatility across all sectors has seen prices fall to record lows. In the sheep sector alone, lamb prices are at their lowest for six years. 
 
 “That combined with the effects of the weather, has caused real cash flow problems for many farming businesses across Scotland and threatens to be the end for some. 
 
“Farmers are angry and desperate.   We need a commitment from retailers and the food service sector to source Scottish produce and from those companies who sell their food and drink on the back of a Scottish image to commit to sourcing from Scotland and to pay a fair price.   
 
“Farmers only have one opportunity to sell their crop and they should be paid a price that will sustain their business now and for the future.   Government has a role to put pressure on these companies to deliver.
 
“It must also ensure that Single Farm Payments are paid to farmers on time in December.   
 
“To have the First Minister on farm today, is recognition of how difficult and serious the situation is across the board and that urgent action is needed. 
 
“We received strong recognition from the First Minister that there is need for a much stronger commitment from retailers, the food service sector and manufacturers to put Scottish produce on their shelves, menus and make it as widely available and identifiable to consumers as possible. 
 
“The Scottish Government can do something to address the issue of price volatility and ensure sufficient price is paid for Scottish farm produce.   Unless we get a combined uptake from retailers, the food service industry and political support, there will sadly be many farmers that have to step away from farming.”
 
Note to editors
Photographs from today’s event are available from media@nfus.org.uk 
 
For further information contact Ruth McClean on 0131 472 4108
 

Date Published:

News Article No.: 161/15


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