When will things get better, asks Kirton Holme grower

Roger Welberry.
Roger Welberry.
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Every time I write this article the situation gets worse.

Added now to the list of depressed markets is the pig industry along with milk, sugar, beet, wheat, sheep and vegetables, and the beef industry is not much better.

Also coming along in April is the National Living Wage for workers over 25 years of age. A report out last month says that it will increase growers’ seasonal wage bills by 35 per cent over the period 2016 to 2021. That’s equivalent to an average annual wage inflation of just under seven per cent compared with less than 2.5 per cent for the minimum wage for the preceding five years. This unprecedented increase in labour costs is hitting horticultural and vegetable businesses at a time when they are already experiencing some of the toughest times in the marketplace. Fierce competition between major retailers to hold on to market share means downward pressure on prices that many growers view grimly as a race to the bottom. In the last two years twice as many farmers have seen their profits declining, with 49 per cent of respondents now reporting declining profits, 42 per cent last year; some seven per cent think their business may not survive, the highest figure in any year so far. British farming faces massive challenges and farmers and growers need confidence to go forward with investment and production intentions. Where is the help to come from? The government, or a major disaster, or is it a depression?