EVEN THE best large-scale arable units in east and north-east Scotland will struggle to make a profit this year.

Many can expect the significant gains of 2003 to be completely washed away by this year’s wet summer and rising input costs, according to a new report.

EQ Chartered Accountants, operating from Forfar, Perth and Dundee, compiled a 2003 harvest benchmark using details from 36 of the north-east’s leading farms. The farms, which covered almost 35,200ha (87,000 acres) in Angus, Aberdeenshire, Perthshire and Fife, were mainly big arable units.

EQ found that farmers in the survey made an average profit of £506/ha (£205/acre) in 2003, compared with just £10/ha (£4/acre) in 2002. Total average profits increased from £3000 in 2002 to £200,490 last year.

The rise, says the firm, can be largely attributed to improved potato prices. Total arable aid and set-aside payments amounted to £60,000 per farm on average.

Mark Wilken of EQ’s Forfar office said: “In reality, however, 2003 will most likely be one very good year sandwiched between two bad ones.”