High input costs took the shine off these very good prices, but even taking the seriously bad weather at harvest into consideration, agriculture has had a good year overall. This winter is proving to be tougher, with poor forages due to lack of sunshine and real pressure on prices as retailers embark on a price war in the high street. 2009 is going to be very much harder and it has already started elsewhere in the world.
In Europe, dairy farmers are coming to terms with the fact that commodity prices have crashed after the sky-high prices at the end of 2007. I believe that European countries are going to regret their increased production as a response to these high prices, and there is going to be a real shake-up over the next two years or so. This will drop production, and that will affect global markets which may well rise sharply as a result. This kind of volatility is now a factor in our lives and we need to learn how to manage it.
Australian farmers have experienced this phenomenon for generations; always seemingly (to us) experiencing boom and bust, with all sectors affected. Climate plays its part in a much bigger way over there, and if the weather hits as the markets crash, then it's very serious.
For full feature see West Sussex Gazette December 31