5 July 2002

Fall in farm income slows but outlook remains bleak

By FW reporters

THE drop in farm incomes is slowing down but agricultural profits have slumped by 80% over the past five years, according to a survey of accountants.

More than 180 accountants were questioned by the Farming and Rural Business Group of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Profits for September 2001 to April 2002 dropped to an average £125/ha, down from £130/ha during the previous 12 months.

The findings were partly based on a poll of 244 of the largest farms in England and Wales. They cover farming enterprises on 41,242ha (101,908 acres).

The survey also quizzed 188 accountants with agricultural clients covering arable, dairy, livestock and mixed holdings.

It reveals that 19% of the biggest farmers are still making an average loss of £33,000/year – up £500 on the previous year.

Overall, the average annual profit for the 244 farmers was £23,500. But a recent NFU survey, which took into account smaller farms, found the average farmers income was just £10,000.

Nearly six out of 10 of the accountants questioned said their clients were being forced out of agriculture.

Nearly nine out of 10 said fewer children were taking over the family farm.

And nearly half of all the farmers had invested off-farm income in their enterprises in a bid to keep their businesses afloat.

Two in five accountants said farming prospects would deteriorate in the next 12 months. Only one in five said the situation would improve. &#42

Big problems… Almost 20% of the biggest farmers are making an average loss of £33,000/year.