Surprisingly, cheese is the most stolen item in retail categories

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WET weather arrived last week, and although we were enjoying the dry autumn conditions, moisture was needed and the grassland benefited. In Kent, many farmers are re-drilling fields of corn, where the dry weather has been severe enough for the initial crop, drilled in September to fail due to lack of moisture.

The temperatures are still good for October/November, and there is still plenty of growth around.

The colours this autumn are again quite spectacular, with some vivid yellows and reds- it seems that autumn in 2011 is to be as colourful as the spring.

We are still pressing apples at weekends, and we can now manage around 10 litres in an hour. I loaned the press to a friend of mine, who pressed about 50 litres last weekend.

This helps justify the capital cost, but more importantly gives us a break. Still plenty of sloes around and I will pick a few more when the weather picks up.

Having agreed to my vet bringing a few farmers around next week, I am now informed that the latest count is 70! This includes farmers from Ireland and from mainland Europe.

We will need to tidy up the place before this event takes place, and make sure we are reasonably clean and tidy on the day.

They are coming here primarily to see the anaerobic digester, but apparently they want to see the cows as well, with some interest in how we operate the herd in conjunction with the AD plant.

The clocks went back on Saturday night, which meant that Adrian and George turned up for milking at 3am by mistake.

I suggested they stick to the old hour for Sunday so they could finish an hour early, and enjoy the extra hour in bed on Monday morning.

I find this winter time very depressing, and I see that a company who supplies cars temporarily for drivers who have had accidents, claim that the number of accidents jump once the hour has been turned back.

The numbers are supported by the Department of Transport, and the road safety charity ‘Brake’, also claim that accidents involving pedestrians and other road users increase.

Farmers seem to be blamed for this need to turn the clock back, but the NFU takes a neutral stance on the matter, and most farmers I know would always vote for longer evenings.

The 11th edition of ‘Checkpoint Systems’ annual Global Retail Theft Barometer, tells us that shoplifting is on the increase, and although the activity dipped in the UK last year, from January to June this year we have endured the highest level of theft in Europe.

Only 12 per cent of recorded offences are reported to the police, with as many as two million thefts taking place each year.

Experts in this activity claim that the problems with the economy, society, politicians and especially the banking industry, have led many to believe that it is all right to steal!

What do you think the most stolen retail category is? Alcohol? Beer and spirits? Confectionery and chocolates?

No. The most stolen item is cheese - in fact the shrink rate in cheese due to theft is almost four per cent.

Some retailers are putting security tags on cheese, and there is a general re-think on store crime, and how to control it.

There is apparently a new breed of shop lifter and we are not looking at the hard-up when analysing theft, it is often middle class people maintaining lifestyle, says Checkpoint systems.

There is also an increase in organised crime, but these gangs moving from store to store do not steal food as it has a very low re-sale value.

They steal mobile phones, and other high value goods.

The appeal of retail theft is that it is relatively low risk and highly profitable, with gangs apparently coming into Europe on a ‘shoplifting’ holiday from as far afield as South America.

Theft by staff is another serious issue which accounts for over a third of thefts. At £4.9 billion, compared to Germany £4.6b and France £4.2b, the UK is now top of the European tree for what the retail trade calls ‘shrinkage’.

Last month, the Grand Chamber of European Court of Justice decided that pollen in honey is not a natural component, but is an ingredient.

Due to this pearl of wisdom, all jars of pure honey will now need to carry an ingredient label with lists of all ingredients ie honey, pollen.

Beekeepers will tell you that traces of pollen will always find its way into the honey and is an intrinsic part of the product.

In fact the pollen makes the honey taste like – well honey. Ultra filtration can be used to remove all pollen and other solids, as they do when honey is used in medicinal dressings, but you don’t want your honey to lose its taste, and I’m sure you don’t want it to cost ten times as much.

It is also interesting to note that it is forbidden under European and British regulation to remove pollen from honey that is sold as honey, but it must now be labelled as an ingredient.

According to the United Nations, the seventh billion person has now been born.

This milestone is significant, and is a reminder of the challenge facing world agriculture to feed the world’s growing population.

With another two billion forecasted to join the present population by 2050, it is an enormous challenge, and I detect a softening in the public’s stance towards science and some of the potential answers; even GM crops.

As the recession bites, and governments panic over the price of food, although they have actively ignored food production, or created conditions where less is produced in a more expensive way, priorities, and attitudes change.

Pragmatism takes centre stage in times of real need and although we may not be at that stage quite yet, it is only a matter of time.

Those computer ‘models’ developed in government think-tanks, which recently suggested that planting all the farmland in Wales with trees would be of more worth than food production, are I hope the last of such models which we will see.

Having seen vast tracts of farmland and deciduous woodland in Wales, planted up with the Sitka spruce, only for mono-cultured landscape, bereft of any real wildlife, to be practically worthless at the end of the 50 year period, I would certainly hope that such government experiments are things of the past.