‘Support local food producers, otherwise we will disappear’

A FERMANAGH farmer has voiced concerns over the falling price of food and rising cost of inputs that is crippling the local farming industry.
James Lappin of the popular Lappin’s Vegetable Field, on the Sligo Road, Enniskillen, made an appeal to the local public to support “local producers” of farm products, otherwise “they will disappear.”
“Over the last few years the price of fertiliser has continued to rise,” James told the ‘Herald.
“Last season I paid £420 per tonne for fertiliser and just there recently I had to pay £700 per tonne, a difference of £280.
“Red diesel for tractors is rising, while labour costs are up six per-cent and so forth.”
Mr Lappin warned that it was “impossible” to keep up with the rise of input costs while also competing with larger supermarkets who are “constantly knocking down prices.”
He stated that local producers will be “out of business” as a result of this.
“There’s rising inputs yet not enough at the far end,” the local farmer explained. “Gas prices are rising and of course fertilised production is linked to oil as well.
“We’re at the complete mercy of the market here. Labour costs are rising too, the minimum wage here is around £9 and when you take tax and national insurance out of it, you’re only taking about £8.
“People just can’t live on that so farmers are going to have to give them a pay rise right across the board… but the money in farming is simply just not there.
“Over the last couple of years, even a tractor car has doubled in price – from about £300 to £600 for the tractors that I’m used to – yet the price you’re getting for the product at the farm gate hasn’t went up. The whole farming industry is depending on subsidy and if it goes the whole thing is going to collapse.
“Politicians up in Stormont were pumping out a message to ‘buy local’ but it was a waste of time because the people that are growing these produces locally are going out of business.”
When asked if anything could be done to rectify the mounting crisis, Mr Lappin said, “The government needs to pick up the price.
“Local councillors are going to hit us with rates and taxation increases, so I can’t see any end to this because we could be facing another 40-50 per-cent rise in gas and oil and whatever else in the coming months.
“Producers just aren’t getting enough money. Even the plastic bags that I use have doubled in price over the last couple of years as well. It’s a vicious cycle.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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