Farmer Focus: High prices are a fire door in a burning building

Volatility has been a long-standing topic when it comes to agricultural commodity prices, but historically that volatility has been relatively low compared to the extremes we’ve seen recently.

We used to get excited when wheat went up £10/t. It would have been impossible six months ago to imagine a drop of £30-40/t in one week, followed by an increase of similar amounts the following week, or for wheat to be at £300/t.

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About the Author

Matt Redman

Farmer Focus Writer

Matt Redman farms 370ha just north of Cambridge and operates a contract business specializing in spraying and direct drilling. He also grows grain on a small acreage of leasehold land and was Field Sprayer Operator of the Year in 2014.

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The current high prices are like a fire door in a burning building, artificially holding back the flames, but it could give up at any moment to expose the contents of the room – Britain’s farming industry – to the flames.

The Rural Payments Agency offered a little fire extinguisher by giving us half the money from the Basic Payment Scheme in July, which will buy some time, but it won’t solve the problem.

This is much the same as increased credit facilities or late payments – they are all helpful in the short term, but in the longer term it will require work from all sectors of industry to find solutions.

As farmers, we need to help ourselves, but we also need help from suppliers, end users, customers, owners and government.

On a more positive note, is there a better month of the year than May? The farm comes to life, the hedgerows are green, the margins are beginning to bloom, the crops are coming, and the cattle are in the fields.

I always mistakenly perceive June as the quiet month before things start to get busy. It’s a mistake I make every year, without fail.

While it’s not a tough ‘busy’ time and offers significant time away from the farm with events like cereal, Groundswell and various trials, there’s also that seemingly endless to-do list that needs be worked before harvesting.

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention again my AHDB Monitor Farm kick-off meeting, which takes place on July 6th.

I really look forward to welcoming everyone to the farm and using the platform over the next three years to drive all of our businesses forward.