I do a fair few things to earn a living. Admittedly I no longer sell firewater and cheap rifles to the natives, the government has an aid budget to handle that side of things, but I still do some freelance journalism to help keep the wolf from the door.
They always say write about what you know, which of course means that because I tend to know agriculture best, that’s what I write about.
I was putting a piece together today and I was looking at Beef and Lamb. Now the Chinese have always been big pork eaters, but now they’re eating other meats. When looking at lamb, in 2004 the Chinese imported 10,000 tons; in 2013 they are expected to import 60,000 tons. To put this in perspective, the UK is expected to export 12,000 tons of lamb to France this year, and France takes about half of our exports. The Chinese are buying beef as well, so even through world production is up a little, the price is still rising.
What is interesting is the knock-on from the horsemeat scandal. Last year, with similar levels of Beef production in the UK, the price of beef rose by less than 10p per kilo. This year with pretty well everything else unchanged, the price of beef rose 35p per kilo. Why? Well this year the retailers cannot pad their beef out with horsemeat to keep the price down. Imports from Poland have collapsed. In January this year, Polish exports to the UK were three times as high as they were in January 2012. By March this year they had fallen to half the level they had been in March 2012.
Food prices are going to continue going up, we’re not a wealthy country, and we’re not rich people any more.
Yet a friend of mine was visiting a young mum in hospital. She’d seen the girl’s mother, knew the lass was expecting and asked mum how things were going. She was told “Oh they’ve made a mess of it; hopefully we’ll be in for some compen.” My friend arrived at the hospital to find the lass had been taken to one hospital, her baby, who was fine was at another. By the time she found the lass, the young mother was now quite well, sitting up in her bed. My friend commented that her table was a complete mess with drinks, magazines, tissues, fruit, sweets etc in a teetering pile and was told, “Don’t worry, the nurses are here to tidy it up, it’s their job.”
To the best of my friend’s knowledge this young woman has never worked, has no training in anything and whilst pleasant company and a loving mother hasn’t much economic leverage.
Mind you I read something that cheered me. In Cumbria, our Bishop, James, has chaired a meeting which seems to be contemplating Cumbria being the first County in the UK to have a fairness commission. This would adopt the following aims
* moving minimum wage staff onto living wage
* trimming Chief Executive and top pay in the Council
* compressing pay ratios between highest and lowest paid Council staff
* making fair pay a condition of contracts with private sector providers
* in-sourcing services previously outsourced (better staff terms/conditions)
I’m already sold on the trimming Chief Executive pay. Mind you, I’d trim with a chainsaw. I’d recommend that no one in the public sector earned more than the PM. Whenever a contract comes up for renewal, the pay will drop to that level. Expenses will be limited to 2nd class rail fair and bed and breakfast accommodation costing no more than £40 a night.
Obviously some of them will claim that their skills will earn them far more in the private sector. That’s fine, I’m cool with that. I’d cheerfully allow them to resign and move to the private sector.
Oh yes, pay-offs. Why should they get one under any circumstances whatsoever unless a tribunal shows they’ve been unfairly dismissed?
There’s a hard landing coming, some are going to find it harder than others. On the other hand if you’re willing to work, you’ll probably get by. The Chinese appreciate hard workers.