7 December 2001
Farm crisis ‘bottoming out at last’
By Alistair Driver
FARMINGS crisis has finally bottomed out, say economists.
The government has forecast a rise in incomes and a slowdown in the number of people leaving the industry.
Sean Rickard, economist at the Cranfield School of Management, said incomes had “most definitely bottomed out”.
The fact that the income forecast did not include 1.4 billion in foot-and-mouth compensation showed the underlying strength of the industry, he added.
Incomes would rise gradually but “less efficient” farmers would continue to leave the industry.
David Turner, director of agriculture at accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, said the strength of Sterling and the recovery of export markets would be key to next years incomes.
He said: “My own gut feeling is that we have passed the bottom of the drop in income.
“There will be no dramatic improvement but I think there will be a steady continued up side.”
Nevertheless, there is a long way to go.
Fewer farmers than expected attended this weeks Agrivision exhibition designed to herald the future for farming after foot-and-mouth.
According to the governments figures, incomes will rise by 17% to 8267 per person this year, despite foot-and-mouth and a poor harvest, according to provisional estimates from Defra.
Separate figures for England show that 5600 people left the industry in the year to June compared with more than 41,000 people in the previous two years.
However, the impact of foot-and-mouth on job losses may not be known until next year, said NFU chief economist Derrick Wilkinson.
“Hopefully we have hit the bottom,” he added.
But he warned that last years income figures were later revised downwards to 1.57bn, from a provisional 1.88bn.
Mr Wilkinson said the overall figures show farmers are taking more care over their inputs.
An NFU survey launched at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair at Builth Wells on Tuesday (4 December) indicates that 20% of farmers have benefited by adding value to their produce, increasing their returns by 110%.