Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Five-a-day keeps smaller farms away

Eating more healthily might be better for us as individuals, but would it be bad news for farmers? A research project funded by the UK Research Councils’ Rural Economy and Land Use Programme had found that if we all followed government advice to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day this could have serious implications for the countryside.
Their research shows that, if we assume that the percentage of imports will remain constant, many more hectares of intensive production under polythene tunnels would be needed in order to produce the quantity of fruit and vegetables for the recommended healthy diet.
At the same time, areas such as Wales and the south west, which are most suited to grazing animals rather than growing crops, would suffer a severe decline in such production. For example, in Wales, cattle numbers would fall by some 400,000 head and sheep numbers would be halved. In the north of England both sheep and cattle numbers would fall by 200,000 head each.
This could mean unemployment in, and abandonment of, upland areas. Smaller farms would disappear and be absorbed into larger land holdings. Upstream industries would suffer, particularly feed suppliers, and there would be a knock-on effect on the wider rural economy of the uplands.
(read more...)

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