Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 20th December 2017
Optimism among the operators of farming businesses throughout the UK is at its lowest ebb on record, according to the National Farmers Union (NFU).
The NFU’s confidence surveys involve 750 British farmers and were initiated eight years ago, with the latest results being taken as a clear indication of uncertainty in the sector about the potential ramifications of the UK’s exit from the EU.
Asked about their confidence levels when looking at the next three years, positivity was apparently in unprecedentedly short supply among the farmers polled by the NFU.
Confidence levels with regard to the coming 12 months also “took a hit” in recent months and twice as many farmers are planning to reduce their enterprise investments as are planning to increase them, according to the NFU’s latest data.
“These results are a clear signal that the lack of certainty is impacting business decisions right now and that, in turn, has the potential to make farm businesses less resilient for when the UK leaves the EU,” commented NFU president Meurig Raymond.
“Farming underpins vital rural communities and it is crucial farmers have the confidence to invest in their businesses to ensure they are able to continue supplying the country with safe, traceable British food, as well as caring for the countryside.”
Mr Raymond went on to say that he believes farmers in the UK have an “extremely bright future” but are currently in need of a considerably greater degree of clarity about how Britain’s business environments will eventually function once the UK is outside the EU.
“As well as clarity in the short-term, farmers will need a domestic agricultural policy that allows them to be productive, profitable and progressive,” he said.
Mr Raymond pointed out that farming businesses are particularly vulnerable to Brexit-related uncertainty because they need to make important planning decisions a number of years in advance in order to maximise their profits and to be consistently competitive.
“Farming requires long-term planning, with decisions on what crops to plant and what livestock to produce being made years ahead,” he noted. “This means farmers need certainty as early as possible to ensure they can be viable businesses in the future.”