17 May 2002

No upturn in prices on SWhorizon

FARMERS in the south-west should not rely on an upturn in commodity prices to solve their problems, says NFU regional director Anthony Gibson.

Despite the latest report from Exeter Universitys farm business survey showing average incomes rising by 31% in the area to £6930 for the year to March 2002, Mr Gibson is not optimistic about any immediate improvement in incomes.

Most of the increase was derived from an almost doubling in profits of dairy farmers. But arable producers saw their incomes actually slump by one third, while lowland stock unit incomes remained static at a loss-making £4000.

"There is nothing to be gained from being negative, but I suspect the improvements in the dairy sector will be wiped out this season, although it looks like cattle and sheep prices might improve."

According to Martin Turner, the universitys senior agricultural economist, the results would have been significantly better if it hadnt been for foot-and-mouth. "The epidemic hit just when there were signs that the agricultural recession had bottomed out."

Both men agree that farmers must shape their own futures. "I think farmers have come to realise that salvation lies with consumers and not politicians," says Mr Gibson.

The beginnings of a new understanding between producers and the rest of society should help begin to bring about an improvement in the economic vitality of farming in the region, reckons Mr Turner, who says there are a number of encouraging initiatives, such as a buy local campaign, already in evidence. &#42

Net farm incomes in the south-west £/farm

Type 2000/2001 survey 2001/2002 %

actual projected change

Cereals 5,770 3,847 -33

Dairy 9,870 18,753 +90

Cattle and sheep (LFA) 1,800 1,586 -12

Cattle and sheep (lowland) -41,901 -4,190 n/c

Mixed 4,120 3,045 -26

All types 5,290 6,930 +31


Type 2000/01 2001/02 %

actual projected change

Cereals 5770 3847 -33

Dairy 9870 18,753 +90

Cattle 1800 1586 -12

and sheep (LFA)

Cattle -4190 -4190 n/c

and sheep (lowland)

Mixed 4120 3045 -26

All types 5290 6930 +31