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Falklands farmers consider the new agriculture challenge and climate change

Saturday, July 15th 2023 - 19:25 UTC
Full article 5 comments
Clifton said wool prices had “been tumbling. We say the gross national wool income is valued at about £12 million. My view now - that it is down to about 50%. Clifton said wool prices had “been tumbling. We say the gross national wool income is valued at about £12 million. My view now - that it is down to about 50%.

Pulling together Rural Business Association Members (RBA) policymakers and experts on the impact of climate change in the Falkland Islands was the aim of Chair of the RBA Lewis Clifton at Farmers Week, he told Penguin News (PN) in an interview recently.

Speaking to PN at the Government House reception for Farmers Week on early July, Mr Clifton first explained that at Farmers Week there were a variety of discussions, “warts and all, about the issues that affect the rural community.”

“I have some familiarity with declined oil prices, bad economic situations from my time as an MLA during the Agricultural Advisory Committee, so I’m very aware of those times. I’m very aware of the tools that the government didn’t have and couldn’t afford to be able to roll out to sustain in a better way than it did.”

He explained: “We are now at the point where wool prices rose in the period up until the super-cycle which was 2018/19. There are lots of reasons for that happening - not least because the currency exchange was in our favor. It is no longer in our favor. Brexit may have implicated that, but we are where we are.”

Mr Clifton said wool prices had “been tumbling. We say the gross national wool income is valued at about £12 million. My view now - that it is down to about 50%. This year, of course I think it is even less because wool prices have been lower, and there is something like 65% of the wool unsold.

That is creating some hardship because folks begin to start to live from hand to mouth.

“And if there are farms and dependents out there who were hoping to survive on let us say £30,000 a year, how do they do it for the winter? How do they provide for their forward expenditure to meet the next spring and the next summer prices? So those are real issues that do impact the here and now.”

Mr Clifton went on to point out that running parallel with that was “the whole climate change set of issues. That’s the here and now.”

During Farmers Week a presentation was given by Professor Jim McAdam “taking forward a Falklands forecast on climate change in 2012/2013 based on what we knew then in terms of the International Panel on Climate Change,” said Mr Clifton.

He said: “Jim has visited pretty much every summer since, but the COVID situation took them out for three years, so coming in as he did this summer for a couple of weeks, he was quite shocked at the deeper impact of climate change. So, in terms of this week, it was rather important I felt, and so did the Agricultural Department, to persuade Jim to come back to deliver his perception of where 50 years of agricultural activity has gone in the Falklands, and marrying that into climate change and other issues.”

He explained then that there were a combination of issues farmers faced: “Wool producers are generally cutting back on sheep numbers. If they do that it means less wool to sell and the price is depressed. Nationally we need to accept that is the situation.

We’ve got probably 65% of the wool unsold. I know there are some folks in that business say well, the market will return - but when will it return? And how will it return? None can live on promises anymore.

“I also see all of the climate change embedded issues, not least from my own personal perspective, but also in terms of what we’ve been trying to do at Weddell Island, in terms of trying to understand some of the science…”

“But also I’ve been trying to take forward consideration of what the opportunities might be in terms of the peak value and potential for carbon credit earning.

To go down that road I think we nationally need to understand what the ground truthing is across the Falklands in terms of what the peat consists of … We have to understand whether the Falklands nationally has a value from that.

Can we earn credit? “But at the same time, we need to look at the biodiversity challenges and how we can nationally promote more tussac planting, better endemic re-vegetation, re-habitation.

All of that comes together I think in a bit of triangle.“There are opportunities on the upward sides of the triangle and there’s a baseline now which is moving to economic stagnation - at the top there is some light that can come out of that, but that requires political energy.

As such during Farmers Week, Clifton pulled together a number of public officers, NGOS, people such as Jim McAdam and other individuals. Mr Clifton said: “I think there's an opportunity here for landowners to learn from setting aside some land and encouraging habitat restoration. And I think there’s opportunity in carbon credits, but there's still some way from understanding all of that.

There are views that say we don’t need to go down the ground truthing road - and what I mean by ground truthing is understanding what makes up the peat across the Falklands, where it is where the depths of peat are that need to be maintained, to prevent soil erosion, to prevent it all blowing away, and to get the best out of it.”

He added: “ Of course that comes with all sorts of benchmarking and auditing. It’s not simple and I’m not going down the greenwashing road - greenwashing can happen but not here on the Falklands Islands.”

Mr Clifton believed it would take four to five years and that wouldn’t be simple bearing in mind the “emerging economic storm” he predicted as a result of depressed wool prices and sales.

Casting his mind back he said “we’re no longer in the really bad position of the crisis in the late 90s where there was lots of hardship … I was the chair of the Agricultural Advisory Committee then. We were trying to find tools to keep people on the land ... There were solutions then - they just didn’t stand the test of scrutiny.

“And they simply cannot be delivered at this moment in time because they were just socially unacceptable.

So we have to move - and MLAs need to come on side to deliver that rural harmony and ensure that people just don’t leave the land because there is no other choice. If people start to leave the land and begin coming into Stanley, that creates another social crisis – a housing crisis.”

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  • Brasileiro

    I read and didn't understand. I read it again and again. I didn't understand. Carbon credits, peat moss, low demand, bad prices, brexit, covid19, etc, etc.

    More lost than the blind in a firefight.

    Jul 15th, 2023 - 10:03 pm 0
  • Tænk

    Mornin' Brasileiro...
    Let me try to help you out here...

    - As you maybe are aware..., infinite extractive growth, based on wild capitalism principles..., ain't no sustainable long term system for this little planet of ours no more...

    - Said the above..., CARBON CREDITS are one of the last WILD CAPITALISM “BRAINCHILDS”..., to perpetuate its INFINITE EXTRACTIVE GROWTH MANTRA..., as long as possible...

    - “ The excellent Engrish journalist.., essayist..., environmentalist...,political activist and overall nice guy..., Mr. GEORGE JOSHUA RICHARD MONBIOT..., famously compared carbon offsetting with the middle-ages Catholic church practice of selling INDULGENCES..., where absolution from sins and supposed release from purgatory would be given in exchange for financial donations to the church, allowing the rich to feel better about their behaviour without changing....”

    - Please find attached below a well written journalistic article on the Malvinas Carbon Credits case..., that may shed some light on the above's obscure & uninformative MercoPress article...:
    https://nicholasroberts.org/writing/carbon-offsetting

    Saludos Patagónicos...

    Jul 16th, 2023 - 05:31 am 0
  • Chicureo

    Saludos from what has an outstanding day!

    I completely agree with THINKs appraisal of his referenced article which I would adopt at our modest farm here in Chile.

    Why not can we too capture carbon by absorbing the waste into healthy beneficial oxygen too!

    Nicholas Roberts concludes: “Once these have been completed, the funding mechanism for further restoration should be chosen.”

    There are several opportunities for our modest farm to contribute to global health which include avocados and delicious table grapes.

    ¡Saludos de 3000mt!

    Jul 16th, 2023 - 04:35 pm 0
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