Walk for hours without seeing another soul, and if you find yourself stuck in traffic, you can be sure there is a tractor up ahead!

Admittedly it is difficult to referee on a Saturday afternoon when I have a full restaurant to cook for in the evening

A Journalist is Born...

It seems that my journalistic prowess knows no ends!

I have just been invited to write a weekly column for one of our local newspapers – The Times and Star – about food, one of my favourite topics.

 

Exploratory talks regarding content are in the early stages but I must admit that having to compile a weekly piece is quite daunting…

Could it be a weekly dish? or should I pepper it (did you see what I did there?) with a little bit of politics: how the CAP affects farmers, for example? Or how about all the lovely local produce (Langoustine and Lamb, for example) that is shipped from the sea and farm straight to the best restaurants of Europe?

Take this last subject – Lamb.

When Angela and I moved up to Overwater in 1992 we really missed our local Sainsbury’s: not that there was anything wrong with our local supermarkets, but, well you know how one becomes used to shopping in certain stores and Sainsbury’s was our local supermarket and what we were used to.

Fast forward 9 years and Sainsbury’s came to Cockermouth.

Oh the joy! The celebrations in the Hyde household were unparalleled (okay so I exaggerate a little, but we were a bit excited. Especially the better half).

It was the year 2001 and Cumbria was in the middle of a Foot and Mouth epidemic: footpaths were closed; roads into and out of the area were covered in matting drenched with antiseptic to try and prevent the spread of the disease. Farmers were losing flocks of sheep that had been “hefted” to the local fells for generations – and our own business was nearly shut down overnight as the ‘phone just stopped ringing.  Thanks to our loyal guests we managed to survive: some other tourism businesses were not so lucky.

So imagine my “surprise” when, visiting our brand new Sainsbury’s, I found New Zealand Lamb on the shelves at a cheaper price than the local English Lamb!

Now you won’t be surprised that I made a beeline straight for the nearest floor manager and gave him a piece of my mind about how Sainsbury’s should be supporting local farmers at such a time (and for those of you who don’t know, Sainsbury’s was built on the old town centre livestock market!). I fondly remember a little old lady, as I drew to a close, joining in with me and carrying on berating this poor fellow as I walked smugly away!

Which brings me to a couple of articles in the press that I have seen recently.

It seems that there is a growing call to improve our lamb export market (to improve lamb prices to farmers – Westmorland Gazette, 16/1/2013) whilst at the same time a delegation is being sent to New Zealand (largest lamb meat producer in the world) to highlight how cheap lamb impacts on British farmers (Farmers Guardian, 30/7/2013).

Meanwhile, the Supermarkets are being held partly to blame for the farmers’ problems as their prices have remained static – in some cases increased - despite falls in UK wholesale rates of sheep carcasses.

Now don’t get me wrong: I believe that the supermarkets are partially (or even largely) responsible for the difference in what farmers receive for their meat and what they charge their customers, but I also think that we need to examine the effect of subsidies on our meat prices.

The New Zealand government deregulated their Sheep Meat Market in the early 1980’s after deciding that that country could no longer afford the cost of subsidising the sheep meat industry: note that I am careful here not to blame the farmers. The whole sheep meat industry was deregulated.

 

The real long term power now lies with the New Zealand farmers as they control the supply of livestock.  How sensible!

 

And this brings me back to Langoustine and Lamb.

 

Am I the only person wondering why we export our own Lamb to the continent and then see cheap lamb from New Zealand on our supermarket shelves?

 

We need to work more closely with domestic producers – our Cumbrian Lamb must rank amongst the best in the world. I have seen our farmers at work and talked with them many times: they really do care about the welfare of their animals.

 

I believe it is high time that subsidies contained within the Common Agricultural Policy are re-examined: we need to deregulate our own farming industry and allow farmers to do what they do best: produce top class produce and be paid a fair price for it.

 

Baaaaa…!

 

Adrian

 

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