Update from the NSA
10/06/2022

“I never imagined I would be writing with a war raging in Europe. I assumed the sacrifices made by our parents and grandparents would secure peace for many generations to come. How wrong I was. I hope with all my heart that by the time you read this the conflict will have subsided. But whatever happens I fear the world will remain on edge for some time to come. There’s no doubt the brutality of war puts the covid-19 pandemic in the shade, but it seems wherever and whenever you look around the world volatility and disruption are the order of the day. Conflict, climate change, pandemic, economics and trade – everything appears unstable or in a state of rapid and uncontrollable change. It’s wrong to try to capitalise on disaster but quite reasonable to add our voice to debates about the future security of the world. And I hope I’m not seen as being glib by continuing to raise the importance of national food and energy security. This cannot be at the expense of the environment. As sheep farmers we know only too well that you can feed sheep well but if they’re kept in an unhealthy environment they won’t thrive.”

“This is the time to try to get the balance right and to prepare ourselves for greater resilience and security as a nation – whatever disruption is thrown our way. That has to mean proper consideration of domestic food security. Food security should be based on sustainable domestic production and not on being wealthy enough to rely on others through trade relationships. The timing couldn’t be better as Westminster considers a national food strategy and all UK nations consider future farming policy and schemes. The importance of global warming won’t go away and neither will that of healthy natural resources – air, water and soil. While nature may seem a luxury for some, we should remember that much of Britain’s wildlife has its roots living alongside, or as part of, farming, grazing and woodland practices. Farming in a truly sustainable and integrated manner is the best way to rebuild it. The strong prices seen in 2021 have provided optimism for sheep farmers and been a real driver for refocusing minds on productivity. But there is now a realisation that input inflation will mean there is little extra room for improved margins, and we would all be well advised to keep investing in flock inputs while refocussing efforts on making sure all investments are well targeted and not overused or wasted.”

“Advice Whether its feed, fertiliser or vet medicines, testing, analysing and monitoring performance make good sense. Advice may cost money but it should result in savings or increase margins beyond its cost. It’s also a fact that one of the reasons our costs of production for lamb are higher than Australia or New Zealand is due to higher capital costs – plant and machinery and buildings and infrastructure. Britain’s climate and production standards are different, as are public expectations of how we farm. And this is a good reason for our high capital costs. There are few farmers who would dispute that food has been too cheap in recent years. But now food inflation is creating nervousness and the world has become a more expensive place to live. Sadly for farmers, and consumers, prices are being driven up not by reductions in farm support but by market forces – input costs, shortages and supply chain problems. As life’s essentials become more expensive there will be less to spend on non-essentials, and there will be many unpopular decisions for families to make. But, as a sign of the pressure to come, farming input costs have been rising by 18%, the value of outputs by 11%, and retailers are predicting food inflation of 5%. Something doesn’t quite add up.”

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive

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