SCOTTISH FARMERS are gloomier than ever before about the future of the industry, even though 82% of them were profitable in their last financial year.

In the annual Lloyds TSB Scotland survey, only 11% of farmers said they were optimistic about farming‘s future, compared with 20% last year.

Survey compiler, Donald MacRae, head of economics at the bank, said the slump in confidence was no real surprise given recent low cereal prices and the ongoing pressure on milk prices.

The findings contrast with a poll taken at the Smithfield Show by consultants Laurence Gould, which showed that almost half of farmers expected profitability to improve.

In the Scottish survey, only 34% of dairy farmers said they had a successor to carry on the business, compared with 52% last year.

There was little change overall, with 52% of all 335 respondents having a successor in place, similar to the Smithfield poll.

Another big change in the survey results year-on-year is that 31% plan to retire within the next five years.

“We now have a third planning to retire, compared with only a fifth (21%) last year,” said Prof MacRae.

When asked to predict the overall impact of CAP reforms on Scotland‘s agriculture, the farmers involved in the survey forecasted a fall in production in all sectors.

But they contradicted themselves when asked what their individual plans were, with strong growth in the numbers of beef cows, store and finishing cattle and sheep reported.

The main casualty, if the farmers carry out their intentions, is the Scottish pig herd, where the survey points to 34% cut in sow numbers.