The head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has delivered an upbeat assessment of the economy and insisted farmers have an important role to play in its recovery.
John Cridland, CBI director-general, likened the current status of our economy to farmers talking about the weather and insisted: “It is sometimes better than it seems.”
Mr Cridland said we were “slowly, but surely” rebalancing the economy and moving away from a period of growth which was “entirely dependent” on household and public expenditure.
Farmers could expect to see growth in the economy, which “although sluggish would be growth nonetheless”.
“I can actually see signs of progress. For years we have had a trade deficit, but that is unsurprising given the problems in the Eurozone,” he said.
“Our trade to Europe is down 8%, but our exports to key markets are 37% higher than they were in the last quarter.”
Labour markets were growing and jobs in our economy were at record levels, he added.
After three consecutive quarters of having a little more money in their pockets, consumers were feeling a “little more confident”, he said. “Whether they will spend money or keep it in their pockets, only time will tell.”
Over the coming months, he was “confident” that farmers could expect to see more credit being made available from banks to small firms.
“Like the weather, we all talk about it (as Mark Twain said), but here this Mark Twain, we are doing something about it,” he added.
Mr Cridland said he had recently met with Chancellor George Osborne and given him three messages:
- Do not try and drive down the deficit reduction any further – “I would not go any faster, but I would not go any slower”
- Give real signals to the consumer and small businesses that boost confidence
- Transfer more current spending to capital spending, such as giving more support to roll out superfast broadband in rural locations
“If the Chancellor can act in these ways, helping you to help yourselves and the communities we live in,” he added.
If businesses wanted to be trusted, they had to ensure that they delivered for their consumers and communities.
“I cannot think of anyone who does that in Britain better than farmers,” he said.
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News from the NFU conference 2013