The Assistant Minister with responsibility for the rural economy says he will fight to double the Government subsidy paid to farmers, as he meets Woodside Farms this weekend to find out more about its uncertain future.
Deputy Kirsten Morel said he would be meeting Charlie Gallichan, who this week said he was considering stopping growing vegetables for the local market.
Woodside Farms supplies 80% of the local veg sold in supermarkets and served up in restaurants, hotels and cafés. Mr Gallichan said the lack of Government support, particularly, during the pandemic, had made the business unviable.
He added that, if support was not forthcoming, he suspected other businesses would leave agriculture, threatening the long-term food security of the island and raising significant questions about future land use.
“I absolutely want there to be quality local food production; it is vitally important,” said Deputy Morel. “The economic reality, however, is that is becoming harder and harder for farmers.
“Input costs such as labour and fertiliser are increasing and also land is being squeezed by orchards, gardens and fields being built on. A smaller land bank makes it increasingly difficult to rotate crops, in order to reduce intensity.
“In short, agriculture in Jersey is in an increasingly fragile position.”
Pictured: Woodside lost £100,000 in daffodils in the first week of lockdown 2020.
Deputy Morel said that between 2009 and 2019, Government support for the sector had reduced from £2.5m to £1m a year, but he added that the current Government had reversed this to £2m over the last two years.
“In my view, this should double again to £4m to maintain local food production and I will be doing everything in my power to make that happen,’ he said.
“If left to market forces, we wouldn’t have any local food production but agriculture does so much more than supply food; farmers maintain the countryside, they give the island character and they protect our heritage.”
He added that the Government would ensure that farmers were operating efficiently and effectively with any increase in funding but agriculture had been the most productive industry in Jersey for at least a decade.
“Islanders also have to play their part by choosing local produce and our egg producers – who supply 40% of the market – are unsung heroes who show us how it can be done.”
Concerning the pandemic, Deputy Morel said he was not directly involved in funding schemes but he recognised that famers had had to face specific costs, such has providing accommodation for isolating staff, and there may have been a “misunderstanding” in Government on the full costs they faced.
He added that he was specifically taking to officials about reforming rules around social security payments for farm workers and the level of accommodation offset which is allowed against the minimum wage.
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