What was all the fuss about? Following the predictions from the Bank of England, the International Monetary Fund, Ken Clarke, Michael Heseltine and a few other outdated and often disregarded old fogies, nothing seems to have changed very much.
If, however, you are a farmer, since the referendum you would have seen your lambs increase in value on the year by some £12 to £15 per head, and your wheat increase by some £20 per tonne. Food is going to get more expensive, and why not? For too long the consumer has assumed they have a divine right to cheap food and, in particular, milk which is sold at less than the price of a bottle of water.
Well, food at the moment is so cheap millions of tonnes of it, and mostly of the processed variety, vegetables and fruit are chucked away every year because the supermarkets lure their customers into loading their trolleys with two for one bargains, while at the same time screwing their suppliers to the floor. Food needs to be valued more highly, so that less is wasted and consequently less ends up in landfill.
I have never been a great fan of Farm Assured British Beef and Lamb (FABBL). It has done nothing to increase the value of our product to the supermarkets who demand it: it has merely decreased the value of the perfectly good stock grown and reared by those of us who decline to bow to the bureaucracy. I used to be part of this scheme. But my final inspection was carried out by an elderly gentleman who did not know the difference between a Friesland and a Friesian, but was more concerned that I wormed my dog! I really couldn’t see the point.
Any farmer who produces healthy stock is quite likely to be a good stockman who takes pride in his animals and if they are sold at auction for all to see, that’s a good enough incentive to do the job properly. One farming family told me that their last FABBL inspection was done by a Tesco inspector whose main thread was that they should not buy non – FABBLed lambs for further finishing on hard grub. Now this sort of advice from a supermarket which cons the public into buying processed food in a packet with a label depicting and naming a fictitious British farm of origin – and then in very small print it confirms the contents are from imported product – this really takes the biscuit. Unless, of course, you are an 18 stone fag smoking mother of ten children from 0 to 12 years whose only support is a walking stick and a regular over inflated benefit payment. She can fill her trolley with a load of totally unhealthy food for less than it costs me to fill the diesel tank in my truck.
I still attend Ashford Market every Tuesday and clock in at 8.45am where I welcome the buyers and get them breakfast from the café if they are hungry. Some of the buyers travel for up to four and a half hours to attend, so a plateful of bacon, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and whistle berries is very welcome. I still very much enjoy sitting down with my farming friends and discussing the topic of the day, which often gives me ammunition for this column.
Given that the current auctioneers are all hands on in sorting the stock for sale, I also seem to have inherited the job of welcoming and showing round groups of interested parties from all over the world – French, German and Dutch agriculture students are regular visitors. Most recently, we entertained a coach load of farmers from New Zealand, who were most impressed with the facilities at Ashford, compared with those at home where the actual sale ring may be covered in, but the rest is open to the elements. They were surprised that we only charge about three per cent, including commission and market tolls – whereas back home with very meagre facilities by comparison, six per cent was the norm plus a charge for the use of the penning. Also the auctioneers took two weeks to pay. They were a very decent group and incidentally had no hangups about Brexit.
One last thought – the day after Brexit, the global economy saw its shares decrease in value to the tune of 2.08 trillion dollars. Chuffing isn’t it that such a small country as ours can have such an enormous effect on the whole world, yet there are those who are still worried we won’t make it on our own. It reminds me of when we had an empire.
I finished this article at 7am Monday 25 July and must let the sheepdog out, who is barking her head off, must let the Staffie out, who is chewing the door off, and must get management her breakfast, who is snoring her head off.
Crack on, Mrs May – first impressions are very, very encouraging. Act with conviction and do not listen to or ever employ spin doctors!