Friday, August 19, 2011

Spare a thought for the cows

My father always claimed that there was no such thing as a poor farmer although he said many would cry poverty - I had no reason to doubt him.

In countries like Britain the truth is that, without farm subsidies, many farmers would now be out of business because there is a big difference between the cost of production on a farm and the price that we pay for farm produce. We all want staple products like our milk, eggs, and butter at the lowest possible prices and supermarkets know this. It is companies like Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys that determine the market value of the dairy produce we buy. 

The same problem exist in Spain where farmers in the Valencian region have been hard hit by the economic crisis. They say that, whilst the cost of production continues to rise, the price at market either remains the same or in some cases drops and they blame the government for not providing a solution to this dilemma.

The farmers here do have a valid point. Take the case of livestock: whereas the cost of feed has risen by 35% over the last ten years, the amount farmers get per litre of milk has remained the same. That is because the price is controlled by multinationals who can determine the price at whatever level they wish.

The consequence of all this is that there are now 257,882 fewer cattle in the region than there were ten years ago and of course fewer farms holding them. That means that the milk and other dairy produce we buy comes from elsewhere which means it has to be transported. Where ever that is, it must be dirt cheap to take into account transport costs. Never mind the Valencian farmers, imagine how poor the ones are who supply us with our daily pints.

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