19 June 1998
Leave the land, Scots farmers
advise their children
By Allan Wright
NINETY per cent of Scotlands farmers would not advise a member of their family – or anyone else – to enter farming, according to a Scottish NFU membership survey.
More than half felt they were being forced to consider leaving the industry, and a third saw early retirement as their way out of present trading difficulties. The survey also showed that more than 40% now relied on non-farming income to survive.
SNFU president George Lyon said: “The next generation of farmers is going to be very difficult to find,” adding that nearly all 1100 respondents expected a further drop in their farm income this year and 87% were pessimistic about the future.
He called on the Government to use the final opportunities to draw EU agrimoney compensation, to end indecision about joining the European single currency, and to lower interest rates.
“But, above all, we need a clear statement from Government about its view of the future role of agriculture. If Government wants fewer farmers, then it must come out and say so. The we can sit down with ministers and plan some orderly approach,” he said.
Presenting the survey results, Mr Lyon was flanked by leaders of ancillary industries. For the supply trade, Tom Colthart, Scottish chairman of UKASTA, said compound feed sales in the first quarter were down almost 10% on the year, seed sales had fallen 10%, and fertiliser turnover was 15% down. “Losses and profits warnings are the order of the day. We have seen three feed mills and six depots close in the past 15 months.”
Pat Glancey for the Road Haulage Association said 36 firms had gone out of business in the past 13 months. “The haulier is the last to be paid and the first to feel the effects of an industry downturn.”
Scottish auctioneers reported a 30% drop in turnover in the first quarter, following a 12.5% drop for the whole of last year.
Contractors reported increasing problems with late payments and bad debts. Farmers, they said, were cutting back in all areas. And machinery dealer John Wilson said a survey by his trade organisation, BAGMA, showed that 60% of members had already cut staff and 37% were considering further redundancies.