AFBI to consider fertiliser costs

Scientists at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) have been tasked with producing a report that will assess the economics of fertiliser application for grass production.

The work has been commissioned by AgriSearch, and will include analysis to identify the breakeven price of N fertiliser addition under a range of scenarios in 2022, and also highlight likely response rates when applying the product.

Two webinars to disseminate the results of the work are planned for the end of January 2022.

Quiet year-end for straw market

Farmers in the market for straw are reporting prices more or less unchanged from harvest time.

Round bales of barley straw are typically priced at £24 to £27 delivered, with wheat straw making £2 to £4 per bale less.

Square bales of barley straw are moving around the £50 mark for 8x4x3 delivered, with 8x4x4 bales costing over £60.

With the mild and dry autumn resulting in increased fodder reserves on farms, the market for straw has been extremely quiet since September.

Migrant labour scheme could expand again

The UK government could allow up to 40,000 migrant workers to come to the UK to harvest fruit and vegetables in 2022.

Under the seasonal workers visa scheme, foreign workers can come to the UK for up to six months each year. It was initially launched in 2019 when 2,500 visas were available. This increased to 10,000 visas for the 2020 harvest and then rose to 30,000 visas for 2021.

The UK government has said 30,000 visas are available for 2022, but another 10,000 could be added, “if necessary”. However, in the longer term, it wants a greater focus on domestic labour.

“The number of visas will begin to taper down from 2023 and the sector will have to improve pay and conditions,” reads a UK government statement.

Minister wrong about pig factories

A minister in the UK government has been asked to clarify remarks that he made about the shortage of labour in the pork processing sector.

In December, Minister for Immigration Kevin Foster downplayed staff shortages in pig factories when he spoke to MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee.

His main argument was that only one of the four main pork processing companies in the UK had registered to recruit under the skilled worker visa, which is the main route for migrant workers to come to the UK.

However, after researching the matter, EFRA committee chair Neil Parish has now written to Foster to point out that, in fact, all four main pork processors in the UK are registered as sponsors under the scheme.

“I’d be grateful if you could revise your remarks and commit to reviewing the support that the Home Office is providing to the sector,” Parish said.

75 eligible for Small Woodland Grant

A total of 75 farm businesses have made a payment claim under the Small Woodland Grant Scheme in 2021, a DAERA spokesperson has confirmed.

With all claimants subject to an inspection to validate the work has been completed, the total value of payments has yet to be finalised.

However, an area totalling 130ha has been committed to establish new woodlands with predominantly native tree species.

Successful applicants receive £2,925/ha to cover purchasing trees, planting and general site maintenance.

The payment is split with 80% payable in year one with the balance issued in year five.

In addition, 10 annual payments of £350/ha can be claimed to offset the loss in production from other farming activities.