Pounds 100m pledge to help farmers

THIS week the Government pledged Pounds 100 million to help farmers survive Britain's worst agriculture crisis since the 1930s, writes Sarah Cassidy.

Pig farmers estimate they lose more than Pounds 20 per pig sold while lowland lamb producers are losing up to Pounds 15 per animal.

The crisis has hit every aspect of farming: the price of pork has collapsed by nearly 60 per cent since September 1996, while the prices of beef, lamb, eggs and wheat have fallen by one third.

As a result, the average farmer saw his or her income slashed by half last year and forecast to fall by another two thirds this year, said the National Farmers' Union.

The union blames the strong pound which has made British produce too expensive to compete abroad while opening up our domestic market to cheaper imports.

The export ban on British beef has also destroyed an overseas market, once worth Pounds 500m a year to farmers.

The NFU warns that young people are being driven out of farming leaving an ageing workforce with two thirds of hill farmers aged over 50. It has called for more support payments, the lifting of the beef export ban and more backing for British farm products from Government and the public.

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