Farmers get out but dont sell up

2 October 2001

‘Farmers get out but don’t sell up’

By Tom Allen-Stevens

RESEARCH from land agent FPDSavills has brought into question government figures on the number of farmers who have radically restructured or left the industry.

The research shows that, while farm sales have decreased by 20% over the past two years, dispersal sales have actually increased by 17%.

The report concludes that farmers are preferring to restructure through contract farming agreements and farm business tenancies, rather than selling up altogether.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs figures, based on the number of farmers claiming subsidy, ignores those farmers who have contracted out their farm but not actually sold up.

The National Farmers Union says the report is proof that UK farmers have responded to Defras calls to restructure.

“Restructuring has gone further in the UK than anywhere else in Europe,” NFU Cereals Committee chairman Richard Butler told FWi on Tuesday (2 October).

“Defra should realise that it is currency that is crippling the UK farmer, not a reluctance to change and adapt to current circumstances.”

The publishing of a report coincides with a renewed effort by the NFU to persuade the government to release 57 million of agrimoney compensation.

At a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference on Monday, Margaret Beckett refused to say whether arable farmers would receive aid.

She claimed the Government has already done much to help the sector.

The Savills report points out that favourable interest rates are one reason why cash-strapped farmers are refusing to sell their farms.

“However, there may come a point where the volume of land available under alternative arrangements depresses landowner returns to a level at which selling the farm becomes a more attractive proposition,” it warns.

Other Savills research shows that profitability to 2000 has slumped by 70%, with net cereal farm incomes averaging around zero, and the poverty gap widening.

“Our analysis shows a clear divergence of farm incomes between the top and bottom quartiles. The gap is now around 140/acre [56.70/ha] and likely to increase further.”


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