15 May 1998

Struggling farmers should leave now

FARMERS struggling to make a profit may never have a better time to stage an orderly and strategic withdrawal from the industry.

Lloyds Bank regional agricultural manager Colin Smith, speaking at a recent Hylton Nomis farmer meeting in Oxford, said he expected a significant proportion of smaller dairy farmers in particular to quit in the next two years.

Such enterprises were experiencing sinking living standards, restrictions on expansion, curtailment of capital expenditure and an overall threat to their survival. But land values were still relatively high and quota was still worth a significant sum, he added.

Mr Smith is one of 20 specialist managers recently appointed to cover the farming industry, indicating banks unease over the future of many farming businesses. He said bankers, in particular, would judge a clients viability by the presence of up-to-date accounts, budgets that gave the financial position month by month, cash reconciliation and longer-term business plans.

Farms that did not have a computer would be competing against the odds. Roger Govier, of Hylton Nomis, said accounts were the hub of the business.

"Manage your business, dont let it manage you," he urged. "At todays prices, theres no excuse not to be using a modern computer." The need to keep cattle movement and treatment records and to provide traceability data for crops, made a farm computer even more valuable, he added.

It would also offer access to essential, immediate information on the Internet, and allow farmers to make use of services such as computer banking, which would give infinitely better control of money while significantly reducing office work.

Peter Grimshaw