ALMOST HALF of British farmers believe their profitability will improve in the next five years, a survey by agricultural consultant Laurence Gould has found.

Of the 120 questioned at the Smithfield Show, 45% believed profits would increase, twice as many as in 2002.

 A similar number believed that their grandchildren would not be involved in farming. “The trend is towards fewer farmers farming bigger farms, and this is essential to achieve the objective of higher profitability,” said John MacGregor, managing director of Laurence Gould.

When asked to name prices for commodities in the future, farmers” replies gave averages of 72/t for feed wheat, 110p/kg liveweight for beef and 113p/kg/lw for lamb. Farmers” guesses at beef prices saw the widest variations, as they struggled to forecast import levels and the effect of removing the over-30-month scheme (OTMS) for cattle.

“Beef and sheep have had a good year, and the idea they”re going to improve above this high ebb is quite encouraging,” said Mr MacGregor.

“Farmers are ready for the challenge to improve their profitability under the single farm payment. But they are clearly expecting margins to get smaller, with no price change after the current premiums have been removed.”

But 42% of the farmers polled felt their profitability would fall, and the majority had no idea how to counter the problem. Over half of those that did have a plan thought they would expand to increase profits, while others believed the entry level stewardship scheme held the answer.

Laurence Gould”s survey also found that 60% of farmers would support the adoption of the euro in the UK, with only 10% saying the pound should never be scrapped.