Monthly Archives: July 2022

What will be your next career?

It was back in the 1990s, and I knew several farmers who decided just to give up their agricultural tenancies and get out of the industry. At the time they were somewhat nervous as to how they were going to make a living. After all, this wasn’t retirement. I’m not sure if any of them got out of the industry with enough to buy a house. So getting a job wasn’t something they could put off until they were in the mood.
But a couple of years later I was talking to them and they were doing pretty well. One thing they discovered was that firms hiring delivery drivers, especially firms supplying agriculture or doing rural deliveries, were preferentially hiring farmers. There were several reasons. Firstly they were, to quote the jargon, ‘self-motivating.’ They didn’t need to be chased, give them the list and they’d deliver.

Secondly they weren’t too worried about hours. After all, given a lot had been self-employed, milking cows, twice a day for over 360 days a year for twenty or thirty years, a thirty-five hour week was barely a full time job, and a boss who paid for overtime was a novelty.

Thirdly, they did the job, but often brought in trade. Retailers discovered that their farmers would mention special offers to mates still farming.  

Now it looks as if a lot of other people could be looking for jobs. A lot of tech companies are shedding staff. Facebook could be cutting numbers by 10%. Apparently Amazon has 100,000 fewer employees around the world that it did have (although given the high staff turnover in some roles that probably didn’t take much doing). Apparently Tesla is getting rid of a lot of office jobs, but is hiring factory/production workers.

Then there is the whole Cryptocurrency industry. Apparently Blockchain.com is cutting 25% of its workforce (which to be fair is only 150 people) but the rest of that industry might be descending into a death spiral.

To an extent, the cryptocurrency collapse (or not) may not be bad news. Developers in West London have been told they face a potential decade-long moratorium on any new homes because there isn’t the electricity supply. Apparently the Greater London Authority told developers the volume of electricity used by data centres had effectively taken up excess capacity in the system. It said: “Data centres use large quantities of electricity – the equivalent of towns or small cities – to power servers and ensure resilience in service.” Disposing of cryptocurrencies could help with our energy problems, estimates I have seen indicate that Bitcoin consumes electricity at an annualized rate of 127 terawatt-hours (TWh). That usage exceeds the entire annual electricity consumption of Norway. With Germany and others contemplating rationing energy, do we even need to waste energy on cryptocurrencies that the vast majority of the population would never miss?

So as the year progresses, people are going to have to make serious decisions. What temperature to set your central heating? The Energy Saving Trust recommends heating your home to between 18 to 21 degrees Celsius during winter. And The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests 18 degrees is the ideal temperature for healthy and well-dressed people. Never having lived in a house with central heating I’d suggest you set it to stop the house freezing and heat a couple rooms. Well it works for us.

People are voting with their wallets. Sky has seen sales fall in Europe as people are just abandoning the broadcaster. Netflix lost a lot of subscribers. Diageo, the world’s largest producer of spirits, has commented that households are starting to cut back on buying alcohol in supermarkets and pubs. Indeed I’ve talked to bar staff who reckon that whilst the early evening can be a reasonable trade, by 9pm, the bar is empty and everybody has gone home except for them. These are more jobs that will be going.

Now I don’t want to think it’s all bad news, there are jobs, indeed whole industries on the horizon. I looked up a firm called Highview Power. Basically they have a scheme where you take surplus electricity from windfarms (From when we’re actually paying them not to put energy into the grid) and solar, and use it to liquefy air by cooling it. Then when you need power, you slowly allow the air to ‘boil off’ and the pressure of the air will drive a turbine. It’s a clever use of old technology. Even the idea isn’t absolutely new. At Kendoon in Scotland they had a hydroelectric plant which was powered by water held back in a reservoir. When electricity was full, they pumped water back uphill into the reservoir, and then when there was peak demand, they just allowed water back down through the plant again.

These jobs aren’t there yet, but they’re a lot close than they were before Putin finally killed long term reliance on gas when he invaded the Ukraine. Perhaps, ironically, in thirty years, they’ll look back at Putin as the one who inadvertently saved the world from global warming?

But what about jobs now? Well I saw one company offering ‘all year round work’ has been posted online one company picking and packing vegetables. They were offering a salary of up to £30-an-hour. Obviously it was piecework but for those who were good enough, it would amount to £240 for an eight-hour-day. Cutting broccoli in the fresh air is bound to be better for you than being cramped up in a windowless office mining for cryptocurrencies.

♥♥♥♥

There again, what do I know? Speak to the experts
From Amazon as paperback or on Kindle.

Or from everybody else as an ebook from

https://books2read.com/u/bwooxP

As a reviewer commented, “This book charts a year in the life of a Cumbrian sheep farmer. It’s sprinkled with anecdotes and memories of other years. Some parts (especially when featuring Sal, the Border Collie) were so funny as to cause me to have to read them out loud to my husband. It’s very interesting to read these things from the pen of the man who is actually out there doing it – usually in the rain! A very good read.”

Don’t try this at home

Sri Lanka has been the victim of a government organised experiment. In April 2021, the government imposed a nationwide ban on the importation and use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and ordering the country’s 2 million farmers to go organic. It may well be that this wasn’t so much ideological as a desperate attempt to keep money in the country. It backfired.

Sri Lanka is normally self-sufficient in rice, but production fell by between forty and fifty percent, which meant the country had to import 300,000 metric tonnes of rice in the first three months of 2021. This can be compared with the 14,000 metric tonnes Sir Lanka imported in 2020.

Other crops have also suffered, tea exports fell by half, which cut off a major source of national income, and the increase in pests and diseases has meant that a lot of farmers are no longer even trying to farm commercially. They’re just trying to produce enough to get their own families through from one harvest to the next. Look, these people are the professionals. They know how to farm. They farm on a knife edge anyway, so they won’t spend money on stuff they don’t need.

So they have food price inflation running at over thirty percent. Aljazeera quoted Jeewika Weerahewa, professor of agriculture at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. “Food availability is at a crossroads and food accessibility is at a crossroads. Describing Sri Lanka’s food crisis as “a man-made disaster,” she said the country will have “serious problems with respect to childhood malnourishment and malnutrition among pregnant women and lactating mothers”.

One major problem is that whilst government has apparently removed the ban, the farmers they rely on are small farmers who don’t have any savings. After all they’ve just tried to farm through a disastrous year where yields collapsed. Given the way world fertiliser prices have risen, they cannot afford to buy fertilisers now anyway and they’re struggling to keep up loan repayments and to pay for their children’s education.

In the UK, 2.8% of the land area is farmed organically. Depending on how you measure it (value, volume or whatever) about 1% of food sold in the UK is organic. (The figure is difficult to quantify because some food may effectively be produced organically but nobody wants the expense of registering, for no financial gain) Some things, like lamb produced on the hills, is probably as organic as certified organic lamb. After all, the organic and conventional producers will often use the same wormers and medicines, but the organic producer will have more paperwork and has to pay whoever certifies their produce.

But in the west, the whole organic food business is endlessly fascinating.

The value of all food sold in the UK in 2020 was £205 billion  

The value of all organic food sold in the UK in 2020 was £2.6 billion.

This fits nicely with our figure of 1% of food sold in the UK being organic.

Look at this graph from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1085286/organic-food-purchase-in-uk/

More than 18% of the population claim that over 50% of the food in their shopping basket is organic.
Somebody, somewhere is not being honest with themselves.

Look, it doesn’t matter. We can afford it. People are allowed their little foibles, their little luxuries. When it matters is when somebody’s little foibles become government policy and reduce a country of poverty and collapse.

♥♥♥♥

There again, what do I know? Put it to the expert.

As a reviewer commented, “This book charts a year in the life of a Cumbrian sheep farmer. It’s sprinkled with anecdotes and memories of other years. Some parts (especially when featuring Sal, the Border Collie) were so funny as to cause me to have to read them out loud to my husband. It’s very interesting to read these things from the pen of the man who is actually out there doing it – usually in the rain! A very good read.”