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Farming

Global plant pest standards agreed

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Global pest: The Oriental Fruit Fly is rapidly spreading

THE BODY charged with keeping global trade in plants and plant products safe has adopted several new phytosanitary standards aimed at preventing destructive agricultural and environmental pests from jumping borders and spreading internationally.

The standardized norms developed by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) cover a range of strategies and techniques used to prevent the introduction and spread of plant diseases and pests to new environments, thereby avoiding their often-devastating impacts on biodiversity, food security and trade.

“This is challenging work with high stakes: each year an estimated 10-16 percent of our global harvest is lost to plant pests. A loss estimated at $220 billion​,​” FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo said at the opening of this year’s IPPC annual meeting in Rome.

Some $1.1 trillion worth of agricultural products are traded internationally each year, with food accounting for over 80 percent of that total, according to FAO data.

New measures adopted this week by the IPPC’s governing body, the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures(CPM), include:

Standard on the use of various temperature treatments against agricultural pests. The standard aims at ensuring that such treatments are consistently and effectively used in different operational contexts.

The norm covers cold treatment techniques that freeze and kill pests as well as those that raise temperatures past their survival threshold. This can be achieved by submerging them in extremely hot water or exposing them to super-heated steam (for commodities vulnerable to drying out, such as fruits, vegetables or flower bulbs) or dry heat (ideal for low moisture-content items such as seeds or grain).

Revised standard for sanitation of wood packing materials. An existing standard, known as ISPM-15, was updated to include the use of sulphuryl fluoride — a gas insecticide — and new-generation heating technologies that employ microwave and radio frequency waves to generate pest-killing temperatures deep inside wood products.

An expanded standard on the use of heat vapour to kill Oriental Fruit Flies. The highly destructive, fruit-attacking Bactrocera dorsalis originated in Asia but has now spread to at least 65 countries. Its presence in Africa, where it first appeared in 2003, costs the continent an estimated $2 billion in annual losses due to fruit export bans. The control technique outlined under the new measure kills 99.98​%​ of the bug’s eggs and larvae when used correctly.

The IPPC Commission also approved revisions that streamline existing standards targeting fruit flies to make it easier for countries to comply with them and improve their effectiveness, as well as revisions to a standard that establishes best-practice benchmarks for the operation of national pest surveillance programs.

And it endorsed new diagnostic protocols for sudden oak death, a fungi-like organism of unknown origin that attacks a wide range of trees and shrubs in nurseries, introduced into western North America and western Europe through the ornamental plants trade. And it approved new diagnostic protocol for tospoviruses, which affect 1,000 plant species and are causing devastating losses, especially to tomato, potato and squash and cucumber yields.

BENEFITS AND RISKS OF GLOBAL TRADE

The dangerous hitchhikers carried by global trade — plant pests and diseases — once introduced into new environments can quickly take root and spread, impacting food production and causing billions in economic damages and control cost. One recent study in East Africa, for instance, found that just five invasive alien species could be causing as much as $1.1 billion in economic losses annually to smallholder farmers in the region.

Not only can fruits, crops and seeds become infected, but the containers and boxes they travel in, as well. Packaging for overseas shipments is commonly constructed from wood, which is relatively inexpensive, and easily manufactured — but also easily infested with a variety of bark and wood pests, and so act as a vector. Timber and wood-made products like furniture can harbour stowaways, also.

This means that not only are food crops at risk, but forests and trees as well. Recent studies shared during this week’s meeting have shown that the loss of tree cover due to invasive pests may result in an increase in stress related-diseases and possibly elevated human mortality rates.

In another example, the Republic of Korea was recently forced to cut down some 3.5 million trees as a result of the pinewood nematode, and over the past three decades has spent nearly a half a billion dollars on control programs to fight this deadly pest. Additional sums have been spent in Canada and the United States in attempts to stop the thus far unstoppable Emerald Ash Borer.

The need to contain threats such as these are why the IPPC was established in 1952. Since then, it has promulgated some 100 standards covering a broad range of phytosanitary issues. It also runs a number of programs that work to share information on best-practices and build the capacity of developing countries to manage plant diseases and pests, both at home and in trade flows.

Farming

Welcome for Young People into Agriculture Scheme

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Geraint Davies, FUW: Scheme is an exciting oppprtunity

A SIX MILLION pounds scheme to develop the next generation of farmers is open for applications, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths announced on May 10.

The Young People into Agriculture scheme will offer start-up aid to high achieving individuals looking to establish a new business or develop an existing business. Successful applicants will need to demonstrate they have the attributes to lead dynamic businesses and drive change in the wider industry.

The scheme, agreed as part of the Budget agreement with Plaid Cymru, will support 150 farmers and will develop participants’ leadership skills.

Eligible applicants must be aged under 40 on 1 April 2018. Expressions of interest must be submitted by 12 June and there will be only one application window.

Cabinet Secretary said: “Supporting the next generation of farmers is a key priority for me and this is even more important as we prepare to leave the European Union.

“This scheme will provide young people with the support they need to enter the industry and gain the skills needed to develop resilient and sustainable businesses. I urge young people to take the opportunity to put themselves forward and apply for the scheme.

“To complement this important scheme, I established a Young People in Agriculture Forum and met with the members last week to hear their views and talk to them about the development opportunities the Forum would provide for them. The Forum will help us further develop a long term relationship with young people who aspire to be the future senior leaders of the agriculture industry in Wales.

“Now is the time to prepare for the challenges Brexit brings. As a Government, we are working hard to support the industry to prepare and build resilience. This scheme and Young Persons Forum will help the next generation of farmers put their businesses and the wider industry in the strongest position to thrive in a post-Brexit world.”

Welcoming the scheme, NFU Cymru President, John Davies said: “We very much support this investment by Welsh Government as part of the budget agreement with Plaid Cymru last year. The NFU Cymru Next Generation Group were pleased to meet with the Cabinet Secretary, Lesley Griffiths and Simon Thomas AM last autumn when this new scheme was being developed, therefore we’re very pleased to see a scheme launched by the Welsh Government.

“It is vitally important that we support the next generation in every way possible and this scheme will provide vital investment to allow young farmers to further progress or kick-start their business.

“The future of agriculture is dependent on good young farmers, driving forward innovation and improving competitiveness in each sector, that is why we have a dedicated Next Generation Policy Group, which has been in place since 2015.

“Our 2018-2020 intake of 21 strong members met on Friday, May 11, to discuss the group’s priorities for the future.

“As I travel around Wales I am always encouraged by the number of young enthusiastic individuals wanting to make a career in agriculture, I would encourage anyone with an interest in applying to do so. Whilst there are many uncertainties post-Brexit, there are also great opportunities as we look to meet the challenge of producing great food to the highest health, welfare and environmental standards for a growing global population.”

FUW Younger Voice for Farming Committee chairman Geraint Davies welcomed the news: “The announcement brings exciting opportunities for younger farmers to set up as a head of holding for the first time, to develop their innovation and business resilience or indeed to establish a new business.

“To qualify for the money – which can be used as working capital and will be paid in three instalments up until 31 March 2020 – you will need to meet agreed key performance indicators.

“Applications will initially be scored and ranked according to how they meet the selection criteria and includes the type and structure of the business. Different points will be awarded according to the type of business, business structure, academic qualifications, level of continuing professional development and the strength of the business plan.

“Even though there are some hoops to jump through, it is worth applying if you think you fit the criteria.”

Expressions of interest will be made through RPW Online only and all supporting information must be uploaded when you submit your expression of interest. Failure to do so will mean that your application will not be considered.

Eligible applicants must be under the age of 40 on 1 April 2018 and expressions of interest must be submitted by 12 June.

There will only be one application window.

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Farming

Farmers and SMEs concerned by supermarket merger

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Merging?: Mike Coupe (L) with Judith McKenna (Walmart) and Roger Burney (Asda)

THE TENANT F​ARMERS ASSOCIATION (TFA) is calling for the Government to rethink its refusal to extend the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) in light of the proposed merger between Asda and Sainsbury’s.

The planned merger, which will probably be referred to the Competition and Mergers Authority, would create the UK’s largest supermarket chain. However, a merged company would still not be as big as Tesco was only a couple of years ago, when that company had over 30% of the UK’s supermarket retail share.

The combined strength of the merged business poses a threat to suppliers, who could find their margins squeezed as the company would be able to depress prices paid to primary producers by manufacturers. That prospect was well flagged up during a BBC News interview with Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe.

Mr Coupe told the BBC that there will be no store closures and no in-store staff redundancies, the inference that can be drawn is that jobs will go both in administration and back office operations, as well as logistics. The most likely way to deliver savings would be to increase the company’s margin or arrangements with producers and suppliers. Mr Coupe told the BBC that the merged company would have the potential to reduce prices through supply chain efficiencies.

Unfair practices within the retail supply chain led the Government to establish the GCA in 2013 to oversee direct supply contracts between retailers and suppliers. However it recently refused to extend the remit to include oversight of relationships further upstream between farmers and processors which could be impacted by the dominance of retailers.

TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn said “The merger between Asda and Sainsbury’s announced this week should cause the Government to rethink its strategy here. When Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe pledged to cut prices on everyday products by 10%, alarm bells rang out across the industry. It is suppliers who will be expected to shoulder the cost of these savings.

“There is a growing recognition that the food supply chain in the UK is dysfunctional and all too often it is the farming community which bears the brunt of the problems that this produces. Poor returns, last-minute changes in orders and specifications, unfair competition from abroad and poor labelling are all contributing to the pressures at farm level,” said Mr Dunn.

“Given that the vast majority of farm produce passes through at least one processor, if not more, before it hits supermarket shelves, the Adjudicator is therefore unable to consider the impact of retailer activity on many farmers,” said Mr Dunn.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday (Apr 30), Business Minister, Andrew Griffiths MP, referred to the work of the Groceries Code Adjudicator, but failed to address why the Government had decided to do nothing to protect primary suppliers. This was despite being challenged by Labour’s Shadow Agriculture Minister, David Drew MP on how the Government planned to tackle further potential supply chain abuse between farmers, processors and retailers.

“The TFA agrees that the GCA has had a positive impact on the groceries market by ensuring that there is a greater focus on the principles of fair trading. Retailers are now more aware of the need to ensure that they are not using their dominant position within the supply chain to engage in inappropriate practices. However the extent of the influence of the GCA is limited by its current legislative powers both in terms of the scope of its remit and its ways of working. The Government needs to act now to ensure that appropriate mechanisms are in place to guard against future abuse in the light of further concentration in the retail sector,” said Mr Dunn.

“Well-meaning initiatives aimed at improving supply chain relationships on a voluntary basis have failed to have the necessary traction across the board. We must deepen and broaden the GCA’s powers to allow it to look at the whole of the supply chain and not just direct supply contracts to ensure fairness in supply chains.​”​

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry, said: “A merger of this size will concentrate a lot of power in the hands of one giant company, and it’s important that power isn’t misused to coerce small suppliers into accepting unfair contracts and poor payment terms.

“Those at the top of Sainsbury’s and Asda should explain how they plan to merge these two supply chains fairly, and give reassurance that cost savings won’t be achieved simply by milking their small suppliers for all they’re worth.

“When investigating this proposed merger, the Competition and Markets Authority should be looking for cast-iron commitments that a positive standard will be set for working with smaller suppliers.”

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The proposed merger will raise many concerns for farmers given the huge power a new mega company could exert over the supply chain.

“If the government were to allow such a merger, we would need to see a step change in regulation of the supply chain and the powers of the Groceries Code Adjudicator, otherwise there is a risk of severe abuses taking place which further undermine farmers and suppliers.”

NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “NFU Cymru and the NFU will be examining the details of this proposed merger between Sainsbury’s and Asda carefully and the further concentration of retail power it creates within the food supply chain. We will also seek clarity on what the structure of any merger will be.

“We will be requesting a meeting with Sainsbury’s and Asda to ensure that the commitment of the new business to British sourcing will not be affected. First and foremost the NFU Cymru and the NFU will be seeking to understand what potential impact a merger would have on our members – both those farmers who are directly part of these supply chains and those who could be affected by wider connotations.

“With just over 31% of the market potentially being held by one company the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is likely to consider the impact on shoppers – but that must also take account of changes to supply arrangements that could give rise to a reduction in choice and availability over the long term. The impact of the whole supply chain, all the way down to farm level, needs to be carefully assessed.

“NFU Cymru and NFU support any investigation by the CMA and we would aim to feed into this if approached.”

Welsh Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Agriculture Cllr William Powell said: “Welsh farmers will be justifiably concerned this merger will produce a supermarket that is simply too powerful, leaving suppliers at its mercy.

“Farmers already work with tight profit margins and face the multiple challenges of Brexit, including diminishing farm support and obstacles to accessing the vital EU Single Market. This merger must not be allowed to threaten them further.”

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Farming

New quarantine measures for show season

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Quarantine units: Protect low TB areas

AHEAD of the summer show season, new Quarantine Unit measures have been introduced to protect the Low TB Area and give cattle keepers greater freedom to show their animals.

From October last year, Low, Intermediate and High TB Areas were established in Wales, based on bovine TB incidence. This approach has been designed to protect cattle herds in the Low TB Area whilst driving down the disease in the Intermediate and High TB Areas.

Cattle returning to the Low TB Area from a non-exempt show in the Intermediate or High TB Areas of Wales, or Edge and High Risk Areas of England are required to be Post-Movement Tested between 60-120 days after their return or movement. Until these cattle receive a clear Post-Movement Test during this period, they are unable to move off the premises to other shows.

Keepers in the Low TB Area wishing to show their cattle at multiple shows will now have flexibility to move their show cattle into a Certified Quarantine Unit, and remain in that Unit (when not at a show) through the show season, until a final Post-Movement test has been completed with clear results. This will allow multiple moves to be made over the course of the show season.

Show cattle will require a Post-Movement test between 60-120 days after the initial movement back from their first non-exempt show and again between 60-120 days after the final movement back from a non-exempt show.

Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales Christianne Glossop said: “Our priority is to eradicate TB. The measures announced today will give greater protection for cattle and herds in the Low TB Area.

“Quarantine Units, developed in collaboration with the industry, provide a high level of biosecurity and are inspected to ensure standards are maintained. Cattle keepers in the Low TB Area will now have the flexibility to use these Units to make multiple moves and show their animals over the course of the season whilst enabling us to continue to protect the Area from TB.”

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