February 21: Exports are key for dairy farms

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TWO key conclusions can be drawn from this newspaper’s investigation into the parlous state of Yorkshire’s dairy industry – new labelling laws need to be introduced and the Government must make certain that farmers are in a position to exploit export opportunities in emerging foreign markets.

These are tough times for the farming fraternity; changes to work practices, and so on, have not yielded the expected financial security and many dairy producers are operating at a loss – a state of affairs not helped by the drop in demand for milk in China, the trade embargo with Russia and the ruthless financial demands made by the major UK supermarkets.

Though the number of people employed in the dairy sector is small in comparison to other industries, it should be remembered that milk is an integral part of the everyday diet and that the closure of every farm has a financial impact on at least 30 other associated businesses.

To her credit, Elizabeth Truss – the Leeds-educated Environment Secretary – has acknowledged that the Government does need to do more to help this sector. With Country of Origin labelling for beef being extended to lamb, pork and chicken, it is welcome that the Minister wants this principle to also apply to dairy produce and it is imperative that maximum pressure is exerted on the European Commission to implement this – time is not on the dairy industry’s side.

Her acknowledgement that there are export opportunities for milk and cheese products, Ms Truss cited the world-leading reputation of Wensleydale Creamery, is also encouraging if the Minister’s words are backed by affirmative action by Defra to facilitate this. However it does not excuse the fact that the Government was slow to recognise the scale of this crisis and its response will still leave a sour taste with those farming families now denied their livelihood.

A false economy: Councils are not empire-builders

AS one of Yorkshire’s foremost seats of learning, the University of Sheffield is well-placed to champion the North. It is in its interests to do so – a thriving economy will increase the likelihood of graduates staying in the region after completing their studies.

However some perspective does need to be attached to its report that the North has suffered a disproportionate amount of public sector job cuts in comparison to London, a state of affairs compounded by the UK’s economic recovery being driven by the capital city’s resurgence.

In contrast to the North, and those major metropolitan councils which were the subject of unsustainable civic empire-building Labour, local authorities in the South have traditionally been more conservative in outlook.

As such, there was also going to be a likelihood that they would be required to make fewer job losses compared to the North where this over-dependence on the public sector masked an abiding failure to generate sufficient levels of private enterprise. It is imperative that councils become more efficient if they are to fulfil their key remits, namely education and social care.

While the university’s academics are right to highlight the North-South divide, its focus needs to revolve around what can, and should, be done to encourage wealth-creators to invest in this area. With productivity in this county lagging behind the rest of the UK, this will do far more to underpin Yorkshire’s future prosperity than an expectation that the public sector will create sufficient new jobs. This has already been proven to be a false economy.

Sticky wicket: Boycott’s pioneering punditry

AFTER his England side were left humiliated by New Zealand in cricket’s World Cup, under-fire captain Eoin Morgan’s day got even worse when clean bowled by the straight-talking post-match analysis of one Geoffrey Boycott.

The Yorkshire legend simply said Morgan was “kidding himself” with the assertion that the floundering England batsmen were beaten by swing bowling after being skittled out for a paltry 123 runs. “Maybe they’re not as good as they think they are,” declared Boycott. “It’s not my fault. I didn’t bat and bowl like this – they did it.”

In some regards, Boycott has become a pioneer for sports punditry since his seamless move to the commentary box. Because he is willing to speak his mind and not curry favouritism, others, like football’s Gary Neville and Brian Moore from rugby union, now provide the forthright analysis which sports devotees expect and enjoy. If only the BBC could fill Alan Hansen’s boots on Match of the Day.

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