12 June 1998

Arable income was cut in half

ARABLE net farm income more than halved on average in 1997, according to provisional results from Grant Thornton.

Figures from the first 10,100ha (25,000 acres) of the companys latest survey, mainly in the east Midlands, show least efficient growers are now back in the red.

The main culprit was the average wheat price. At £84/t, it was £20/t less than in 1996. Lower yields also played a part – a 10% slide saw output struggle to top 7.4t/ha (3t/acre).

"Results from mainly combinable crop farms in the east Midlands show that farm gross margins have fallen by £75/acre, or 25%, to £226/acre," says the companys Mark Chatterton.

There are big differences between farms, he notes. Growers in the top 25% bracket bettered the average gross margin by £111/ha (£46/acre), those in the bottom quartile fell short of it by £69/ha (£28/acre).

Top performers also made important savings on fixed costs, spending just £326/ha (£132/acre), £50/ha (£20/acre) less than the average and a massive £173/ha (£70/acre) less than least efficient growers.

The largest savings were made on labour, which cost £47/ha (£19/acre), and property repairs. However, even that could not prevent net farm income among the top 25% falling to £250/ha (£101/acre) this year from £481/ha (£195/acre) in 1996.

On average, farmers made £140/ha (£57/acre), less than half last years figure. But the least efficient quartile made a loss of £22/ha (£9/acre), down from a surplus of 114/ha (£46/acre).