5 September 1997

CHANGES BRING CHANCES

Arable farming is at the dawning of a new age. It is a frightening time, but it is also a time of opportunity.

Behind us lie four years of unprecedented profits. A weak £ and a CAP regime that compensated for price cuts which never materialised have done much to boost farm incomes.

How well those extra profits were invested is about to be thrown into focus. This years crash in the grain market is making most producers sweat. Add the implications of the EUs latest Agenda 2000 proposals and even the most optimistic will need to reconsider their budgets.

But with those changes come chances. Some farmers will turn their attention outside agriculture, creating opportunities for the remaining enthusiasts who can offer a professional crop production service.

Furthermore, in line with the lowering of EU barriers to imports, new export opportunities will emerge. Given the undoubted efficiency and improving quality of UK production there is ample scope for major world market sales. Of course, a fall in the £ would help even more.

But, whatever the future holds it demands rigorous attention to detail – and that applies to all aspects of the farm business. No longer is it enough to grow a good crop or slash inputs to the bone. Those basics must be backed by prudent input buying, rigorous control of overheads and astute crop marketing.

Asking an individual farmer to achieve all that as well as manage the day-to-day dilemmas of a farm business is asking a lot. The wise will seek outside support to help maximise returns. Consultants, contractors, marketing specialists and business advisers all have a role to play.

To help you keep those specialists on their toes FARMERS WEEKLY will continue producing the reliable, independent information for which it is renowned. Indeed, this year sees the launch of a new service – FWi – your easy route to accessing extra information over the internet.

So, keep reading FW, consider FWi, but above all seek the innovations in husbandry and business management that will give you a competitive edge in future. Who knows, the storm clouds gathering on the horizon now, could be concealing the dawn of a new era. Admittedly it may be a more challenging era, but ultimately it could be just as rewarding.

Did harvest 1997 witness the sunset of an era of top profits or the dawning of a new age of challenge and opportunity?