FARMERS ARE seeking to improve profitability by forging alliances with others and connecting with the rest of the food chain, according to a survey by ADAS Management Consultancy.

But the Farmers‘ Voice survey also revealed a worrying lack of awareness about industry issues and a false sense of confidence borne of better returns in the past two years.

Martin Wilkinson, ADAS‘ head of business management, said: “There is a divergence in the sample.

“Many of the bigger eastern cereal growers have recognised the need to respond to a changing marketplace and are looking to become more efficient.

“The results also showed that the horticultural and pig and poultry sectors are much more aware of the marketplace than the beef and sheep sectors, which as historically supported sectors haven‘t had the same level of exposure,” he added.

The survey shows significant growth in the number of farmers likely to develop alliances to 36%, compared with 19% in 2002.

The 2002 survey showed that only 13% of farmers were happy to stay in farming without any significant changes to their business. In 2004, this has doubled to 26%.

“This comes on the back of a year of better returns for some sectors and suggests some farmers are not taking a long-term view,” he said.

In terms of business survival, the results were more encouraging. The percentage of farmers who said their businesses were not profitable and unlikely to survive had fallen from 12% to 7%.

Nearly three times more farmers felt they were able to maintain their profit levels than in 2002 and most still believed that although profits were down, their businesses would be able to weather the storm.

But in terms of developing their farm businesses, the responses showed little had changed in two years.

Lack of capital and planning legislation were still considered the two biggest problems.