War in Ukraine: UK Farming and Food Production — [Dame Angela Eagle in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:42 am on 20th July 2022.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 9:42 am, 20th July 2022

Thank you, Dame Angela. It is unusual for me, although I am very pleased, to be called first. You almost knocked me off my stride there. May I first of all thank Christian Matheson? He is a dear friend—he knows that—and I support all that he said in his introduction. He set the scene very well. We are all here today because we understand the importance of farming. For me and my constituents, it is critical. I live on a farm. I declare an interest as a farmer and a member of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, so I thank the hon. Gentleman for securing this debate.

I do not have the time to work on the farm as I would like to. If not for my father’s illness many years ago, I would probably have been a farmer. Unfortunately, at that time it coincided with the purchase of the farm. My job on the farm—my mother still owns the farm that I live on—is to look after the buildings and maintain the structures and roads and so on. It is quite a job. On Saturday afternoon my job is to go about and make sure those tasks are done. Next week when I am off during recess I will have more time, and will be doing all those wee jobs at night-time as well. It is an absolute pleasure and privilege to live on a farm, so I am pleased to contribute to the debate on behalf of my farmers.

I am well placed, as others are in this Chamber, to highlight the needs of the farming community. I really am pleased to see the Minister in her place. She has an incredible understanding of the issue, and I know that when we speak to the Minister and ask her a question, we push at an open door because she always responds. I mean that genuinely and seriously, because every one of us appreciates that opportunity to contact the Minister about issues that are so important to us. I mostly contact the Minister about fishing, but I have occasion to ask about farming issues today.

Russia is the world’s biggest exporter of wheat, producing around 18% of international exports, and Ukraine produces around 12% of the world’s wheat. Ukraine also produces 17.5% of the world’s supply of maize, as Farmers Guide recently outlined:

“The war in Ukraine has added another layer of uncertainty for British farmers after an already tumultuous couple of years. Recent weeks have sparked concern over the supply and spiralling cost of input and supplies, with the market changing on a day-to-day basis.”

The hon. Gentleman referred to that: there is a change almost every week, a price increase and hike, which presents lots of problems.