Making a margin in the post-CAP reform era is the challenge for UK Farming plc and eastern arable producers are set up for the challenge.
Widespread acknowledgement that low cereal prices forecast for the coming year will continue to add pressure to already slim profits have seen this region’s farmers react swiftly to the challenge, suggest observers.
Expansion of arable acreage and joint ventures have seen some farm units merge, if for nothing more than optimising machinery use and efficiency.
Dealers remark how almost every trend to “kit up” has started in this region with the adoption of wider spray widths and use of tracked power units being just two, diverse examples.
The natural advantage of often flat, fertile soils has helped ensure farm income is ahead of growers in the west, with wheat yields of 9t/ha (4t/acre) often quoted – a target that continues to elude sways of arable land to the north and west.
But the high-spending days of the late 1980s and early 1990s are a distant many for many dealerships.
Farm finances are now held in check.
Investment is no longer a method of writing down against profit generated by IACS and a healthy grain market supported by intervention, but ability to perform and deliver, and reliably.
Service packages are seen as an integral part of machinery replacement policy.
Downtime, particularly on the region’s more time-dependant crops such as root vegetables and salads – no doubt spurred on by the need to meet retailers’ and packers’ demands – has become a focus in machinery purchasing.
As a result, dealers feel there is more emphasis on the provision of service teams than in recent years.
It is not uncommon to hear /hr attributed to downtime among leading arable businesses.
Although the removal of area payment support is seen as the major threat to the region’s arable sector, dealers are aware that further upheaval is likely.
The loss of sugar-beet support would have a damning effect on many units providing – as it does – the linchpin to profitability when cereal values are low.
However, if one region is championing the ability to evolve farm structure to meet the demands of the new, unsupported farming sector, then dealers agree: The East is it.