Jo, who keeps 150 breeding ewes in County Durham, is urging those finding it difficult to pay domestic bills as a result of market fluctuations to contact R.A.B.I, the 155-year-old farming charity which helps people in financial need.
Jo is a qualified solicitor who runs a 60-acre farm in Barnard Castle with husband Tony. She is also a member of the Farmers Club committee. She said: “We’re lucky because farming is not our main livelihood, but falling prices is what everyone is talking about at the moment and, come September, I think we could see bigger problems. Hill farmers, who have nothing else to fall back on, could be in trouble if current trends continue.
“We are seeing a difference in price on this time last year of £10-£15 per head, which is a lot of money. Farmers are usually quite fatalistic about prices and fully understand that they fluctuate, but I think what is getting to them is the fact that prices in the supermarkets do not appear to have gone down.”
It’s not only the north of England where there is concern over lamb prices. R.A.B.I deputy chairman Malcolm Thomas, who hails from Wales, said: “The fall in market prices is going to leave farmers without the necessary funds to buy breeding stock and feed for the winter. This points towards welfare problems early next year.”
To date, R.A.B.I has not seen a significant increase in requests for financial help from sheep farmers, but the charity is concerned that a combination of factors and events could eventually take its toll on even the most resilient. If that happens, R.A.B.I chief executive Paul Burrows hopes farmers with limited savings and low incomes will get in touch with R.A.B.I, rather than suffer in silence.
Paul said: “It is extremely concerning to see further pressure on the livestock sector with the impact of reduced prices for lambs. The sector is already under severe pressure, with dairy farmers affected by the considerable drop in milk prices. There will be a knock-on effect later in the year with the sales from the hill farmers, which will further impact on cash flow and future viability. The banks have remained very supportive to the industry which is important and good to see.
“R.A.B.I cannot help with business payments but we can support households with domestic payments. If individual farmers are struggling financially, we will look at their cases to see what we can do. We encourage people to contact us on our confidential helpline 0808 2819490.”