Propel was established in 1996 to provide flexible & accessible finance to UK based SMEs; and have since helped more than 40,000 businesses across the country access finance towards business critical equipment & vehicles.
Supporting the finance needs of the farming community has always been an integral part of Propel. This is led by their dedicated specialist agricultural finance team, who understand first-hand the particular nature of agricultural businesses and have a finger on the pulse of the rapid change the sector is undergoing technologically, structurally and economically.
To register your interest in receiving your priority copy of the full National Farming Finance White Paper, visit www.propelfinance.co.uk.
For more information, call 01633 982922.
Optimistic outlook for UK farming
Three-quarters of UK farmers are looking to invest in new assets over the next year, with 58% feeling positive about the industry’s financial outlook over the next 12-24 months.
According to a major new survey by Propel Finance, 40% of those looking to invest want to acquire tractors, 24% trailers, and 18% handling machinery. The survey of 502 farmers also found that almost one-third are considering investing in renewable energy or camping, caravanning and glamping enterprises.
“Post-Covid, it’s clear that British farmers are willing to take the bull by the horns and have the confidence to invest, both in their core businesses and diversification projects,” says Julie Warren, Marketing Director at Propel.
The survey showed that younger farmers are consistently more likely to invest than their older counterparts, and feel more optimistic about the financial outlook. “There is a new wave of farmers coming through who are looking at new ways of farming and diversifying their income streams; it’s really exciting.”
When questioned about the financial outlook for the farming industry over the next 12-24 months, 58% were positive while just 16% were negative. In relation to their own business confidence for 2021-22, 56% were optimistic and 12% pessimistic.
“Given the uncertainty that the farming industry has gone through in recent years, I’m pleasantly surprised at this level of confidence,” says Ms Warren.
“Both lamb and arable prices are looking strong, and I think there is a level of relief that Brexit hasn’t been as bad as expected. The buoyant nature of these responses also says a great deal about the character and resilience of British farmers in facing up to their challenges and embracing new opportunities.”
On that note, three in four respondents are interested in new farm technology, with 31% looking into advanced weather forecasting, 30% into DNA soil testing and 29% drone mapping and crop spraying.
Those under the age of 34 or with larger farms are more open to new technology, while 19% of arable farmers are looking into self-driving equipment, with 29% of dairy farmers considering robotic milking.
The main constraints to growth in the next two years are expected to be rising costs (62%), BPS cuts (45%) and government policy (39%).
Arable producers are most likely to be worried about extreme weather (44%) while livestock producers have concerns over supply chain stability (41%) and restricted access to finance (33%).
Nearly a quarter of smaller farms (<99ha) also cite finance access as a constraint. Larger farms (>200ha) are more likely to use asset finance like hire purchase (45%) or vendor finance (borrowing from a manufacturer or supplier to purchase their goods) (25%).
“It is critical when emerging from the pandemic that farms of all sizes are able to access fast and flexible finance to take advantages of opportunities for growth,” adds Ms Warren.
While 48% of respondents use their own funds, they also use traditional banking facilities like bank loans (46%) and overdrafts (39%).
86% of respondents also see clear benefits to using asset finance: It conserves working capital, offers affordable payments, simple budgeting, and you gain immediate use of equipment with no capital outlay.
Perhaps more commonly known as hire purchase (HP) and leasing, asset finance is a flexible alternative to a bank loan or overdraft, ensuring that farms borrow only what they need to finance a particular asset.
When it comes to investing in diversifications, a quarter have already implemented renewable energy projects, with 14% selling direct to the public and 12% having equestrian enterprises.
Of those who already have renewable energy, 87% are looking to add to it, while across the board camping and holiday cottages are top of respondents’ wish lists.
“That’s hardly surprising given the boom in staycations due to Covid,” says Ms Warren.
“Farms, by their very nature, are attractive places to stay, and it makes sense for farmers to capitalise on this rising demand for holidays in rural areas. We are already offering a lot of support in this area, providing finance for glamping pods, for example – there’s a lot to set up which we can help with.”
Smaller farms and younger producers are most likely to look at a wide variety of diversification options. Larger farms are, in contrast, focusing in on fewer areas of interest.
“I’m really optimistic about how open-minded farmers are being, and how widely they are spreading their ideas,” she adds.
However, one area in which farmers would benefit when it comes to keeping an open mind is asset refinance: Only 17% would consider using it versus 56% who wouldn’t.
“Asset refinance is lending that releases cash tied up in existing equipment and machinery. As a culture, us Brits have a desire to own something outright and releasing cash from assets has historically been viewed by some as a distress cashflow situation,” explains Ms Warren.
“But it doesn’t have to be like that: Releasing cash from existing assets can be a positive move, proactively freeing up new working capital to invest in improving your business.”
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Propel Finance Group includes Propel Finance PLC and Propel Finance No.1 Limited. Propel Finance Plc is registered in Wales, Company no 04015132 Propel Finance No. 1 Limited is registered in Wales, Company no. 10003271. Registered offices are at Unit 5, Langstone Business Village, Langstone Park, Newport, NP18 2LH, vat no. 252089996. Propel Finance Plc and Propel Finance No. 1 Limited are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.