Recent weeks have seen much publicity surrounding food security.
In the past Britain was pretty much self-sufficient on producing the foods required in the UK, but as western diets have become more easternised and standards of living have improved, so has the demand for a wider variety of food stuffs.
In turn the food industry and in particular the supermarkets have become a global big business and it has led to the squeezing out of many smaller producers. How does this issue of food security affect us in Cheshire?
Currently cereal prices have increased greatly, this has meant that feed rations for cattle have increased in cost and equally better returns can be made from an acre of ground by growing cereals, rather than having it down to grass and dairy livestock production.
It is therefore likely that if this trend continues, more dairy farmers will exit the industry, and potentially more land in Cheshire will be ploughed to grow cereal crops such as wheat, oil seed rape and barley.
So will this be a bad thing for Cheshire’s general public? In the opinion of Tony Rimmer, Director of Rostons, this could change the whole fabric of the Cheshire countryside and change our rich tapestry.
One of the reasons that Cheshire is so attractive to the tourist and indeed such that so many are urban dwellers at the weekends for their Sunday afternoon walk in the countryside, is the huge expanses of grass and the contrast found in the landscape by the different field operations and crops being grown, very different to the flat east where it is predominately in cereal production.
Once a dairy farmer has got rid of his dairy cows, it is most unlikely, even if the profitability returns, that they will go back into dairy production. Recent legislation requires huge investment in facilities to handle slurry and manure.
So what does this mean for our daily pinta? Well if the returns remain as low, i.e. the price to the farmer does not increase, we will see more larger super dairies proposed, because it is only as a result of economies of scale that milk can be produced profitably at the price the supermarkets are currently dictating.
It really is that simple, if you the consumer want locally sourced and better quality produce, be it milk or other products, you need to be prepared to pay a premium and possibly in the current economic climate this does not sit well with the general household budget.