\”This meant that the farmers’ guarantee of a fair price was taken away as the powerful supermarkets and dairy trade forced prices down. And that, in a nutshell, is why dairy farming in Britain is in such a state of utter despair.”
Well, sorta. Sorta the big bad supermarkets forcing prices down.
And sorta not really, sorta many more farmers producing.
In the heyday of British dairy farming, there were 28,000 in England and Wales. Today there are just under 11,000.
Doesn\’t look like many more farmers, this is true, but…
Evans’s father had a herd of what his son refers to as “25 happy milkers”.
OK, a generation ago, 25 cows on one farm. Today?
It was an agonising decision: at the end of last year, he hung a “For Sale” sign on his 192-strong herd of Holsteins.
Ah, 8 times as many cows eh?
And modern cows, through breeding and food supplements, do produce more than the cows of a generation ago.
But this supply and demand thing you know? If supply from a unit (which we\’ll call either \”a farm\” or \” a farmer\” here) goes up by a factor of 8 and demand doesn\’t in step with that then the price of the good being produced is likely to fall. And there will be then pressure for the marginal producers to leave the market as profits tumble.
Now I wouldn\’t want to try and have to prove that supermarkets (or the EU, or Johnny Foreigner) has nothing to do with it but casting them as the only cause of this seems very odd indeed.
The prices of farm products have been falling since the Neolithic and the number of farmers has been falling for at least two centuries. Because higher productivity per farm and farmer has been driving up production and thus down prices and profits.
And, of course, it is this greater productivity of farms and farmers that allows the rest of civilisation to happen. If we all had to stand up to our ankles in cowpats to feed the population then there could be no NHS: there wouldn\’t be 1.4 million people not standing up to their ankles in cowpats to staff it.