It used to be that in a bad year farmers got compensation for poor harvests and the impact of bad weather by a proportionate rise in retail prices.
Unfortunately, this does not happen anymore because the supermarkets can source whatever produce they want from suppliers around the globe the year round. And on those rare occasions when the retailers are forced to secure from local suppliers in times of real need, their buying power is such that – invariably – they can still keep a lid on shop prices.
Under these circumstances farmers really are treated as the weak link in the food chain: made all the worse by virtue of the fact that they are at its very foundation. As a consequence, farmers cannot pass the squeeze in margins they experience back down the line to anyone else.
Adding to the pressure on agri margins is the fact that farmers are extremely weak buyers, when it comes to the inputs they require.
Under such circumstances farmers should expect a realistic increase in support levels from Brussels.
But, as it turned out, EU agriculture had what can only be described as the worst possible CAP reform package foisted upon it 21 months ago. A combination of a 7% reduction in the EU’s overall budget, the fixing of the new agri support rates in Euros for the next five years and the most complex range of CAP measures yet to be conceived has conspired to make farming a more than uphill battle for every producer in Northern Ireland and beyond.
Meanwhile, EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan is calling for a simplification in the new EU support measures. But before he ever gets near that subject he might wish to record his commitment to getting at least a proportion of the aforementioned EU farm support budget cuts re-instated.