Specialist poultry businesses are the only farm types not to have experienced a drop in net profit over the past 12 months, according to Farm Business Survey results for England.

The annual estimates from DEFRA cite the poor growing season and harvest in 2012 for the negative figures across both cropping and livestock enterprises.

For example, specialist cereal growers suffered an 11% income fall to £84,000 on average, as higher prices failed to compensate for lower yields. And upland beef and sheep farms saw a 52% profit slump to just £14,000 a unit, due to lower sheep values, higher feed costs and a reduced single farm payment.

“Feed costs are also an important driver for incomes on specialist poultry farms,” said the DEFRA report. “But in this sector, while feed costs are predicted to increase, a higher output from both broiler and egg production is also expected, resulting in average incomes being unchanged.”

According to the survey, net profit on English specialist poultry farms came to £41,000 in the 12 months to February 2013.

This was the same as the previous year, but substantially lower than 2010-11 when the figure stood at £68,000, and 2009-10 when it was £72,500.

The DEFRA report also urges caution interpreting the estimates, saying that it will not be until October when final income figures are published.

In 2012, there was a 34% disparity between the initial forecasts and the actual out-turn.

Commenting on the results, NFU chief economist Phil Bicknell said price volatility, low profitability and falling confidence did not provide a secure framework for a sustainable food industry.

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