Farming future in doubt as crops cost more to grow than they’re worth

A farmer is considering the future of his business after he revealed his crops are costing more to grow than he can sell them for.

Olly Harrison is currently harvesting wheat and barley from his fields near Prescot on Merseyside.

Rising costs mean they won’t be worth what it has cost him to grow.

He said, "Quite simply, at the moment we are losing money.

"We need to figure out a way to carry on farming sustainably because it's not sustainable if we lose money every year.

"I'm debating whether we carry on this next year."

Sweet-tasting baby plum tomatoes are just one of the products grown on Merseyside. Credit: ITV Granada

Olly says the climate and the fallout from Brexit are exacerbating the challenges that farmers are being confronted with.

He invited local politicians to meet other farmers at his own farm to help them understand more about where their food comes from and the issues facing the industry.

He said, “We’ve had the worst rainfall we've ever seen in July.

"The other things that we've got going on at the moment is the fallout from leaving the EU. It's getting the policy to fit with what we need.

“We’ve got different things about chemical registrations and getting people to work on farms. A lot of migrant labour just doesn’t seem to be around at the moment.

"There's just so many different things and it's important the MPs understand what happens on a farm. Interest rates are the biggest thing at the moment as well."

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram was amongst the guests invited to the event. Credit: ITV Granada

The event, organised by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), aimed to showcase the high quality, climate friendly food that it says is produced on Merseyside.

The county, known as a largely urban area, produces everything from beef, lamb and dairy to nutritious fruit and vegetables, and a range of crops.

According to the NFU:

  • The North West’s livestock sector is worth £1.6bn

  • The region is home to 3-million sheep

  • North West horticulture industry has an economic agricultural value of £116m

  • The region produces £21.5% of England’s lamb

  • Each year, an average of 864-million eggs are laid in the region

  • North West wheat and barley growers contribute £87.3m to the economy

Olly Harrison explains his fears for the future if the situation doesnt improve.

Business is good at Flavourfresh Salads, although increases in the price of fuel and fertiliser have made things more difficult.

They grow 25 acres of tomatoes, 12 acres of strawberries and six acres of sweet blackberries on land in Banks, north of Southport.

Manager David Barker agreed that the availability of agricultural labour is another issue.

“The people who historically went into farming, you wonder: where are they now?” he asked.

“We do have people from Bulgaria and Romania who do a fabulous job meeting the gap that we don’t have British workers for.

“Come and work for us!"

The NFU is calling for the levelling-up of rural Britain through a number of actions, like buying local food and prioritising rural connectivity.

Olly Harrison hopes the politicians will help make a difference.

Despite suffering from two droughts in the last three years, he still retains some hope for the future.

“You always keep your fingers crossed for a better year,” he said.

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