Opinion: Inflation will be a big topic for farmers in 2022

It is a shame that the New Year falls in January.

The sense of renewal and optimism that we are all desperate for isn’t easily summoned at this time of year, when our bodies are cold and sunlight is such a precious commodity.

Our marshland landscape might fill stomachs with food but, even in May (my favourite month), the scenery doesn’t offer much nourishment for the soul.

At this time of year, it takes a strength of character to even look out of the office window.

About the author

Matthew Naylor
Farmers Weekly Opinion writer
Matthew Naylor is the managing director of Naylor Flowers, a Lincolnshire business that grows cut flowers and potatoes for supermarkets. He is a Nuffield scholar, a mentor for the Prince’s Trust and on the governing body of the Marshal Papworth Fund.
Read more articles by Matthew Naylor

The sugar beet and vegetable farmers are busy covering all the local roads, and as a consequence everything else, in mud, adding to the feeling that we still have a long trudge to springtime.

See also: Don’t let farming’s traditions put you in chains

The start of January is the start of our financial year. In this sense, at least, I can embrace a new beginning and an opportunity to prosper from the previous year’s misfortunes.

We have exciting plans too. We are moving into our new offices this month and we are about to start building a new factory to process cut flowers.

The current spell of super-inflation would have been more welcome after the building was complete rather than during the design phase, but as I am someone who began farming as a borrower and who would rather invest than save, rising prices are my ally even if they are not my friend.

I expect we will discuss inflation a lot in the coming year. The rapid rises in the cost of labour and primary materials are my immediate headache, but could bring the recalibration that consumerism needs.

Supermarkets are yet to meaningfully increase prices, continuing to ruthlessly and unnecessarily squeeze more money out of an already under-invested supply chain, but change is coming down the tracks.

I am coming to 2022 with fresh energy for another reason too.

At the end of 2016, after 25 years in my job and having had a difficult year personally, I stepped back from the day-to-day production on the farm and my cousin, Chris, became our operations director.

Since then I have taken time to think strategically and to find happiness in my personal life. I renovated a house and took some voluntary roles to gain new experiences and to share what I know.

I can’t recommend this highly enough. I had exhausted all my ideas and was running on an empty tank.

The rapid rises in the cost of labour and primary materials are my immediate headache, but could bring the recalibration that consumerism needs

We all think our own work is essential, but it can be better to let a farm tick over for a couple of years than to waste energy and money working hard without a clear goal.

Spending less time with farmers and farming took me away from the rituals and herd mentality that was driving me into unprofitable decisions.

Lockdown gave me even more time to reflect on the way that we farm and how we market our products, and how we can improve.

I am sufficiently invigorated to start driving our business forward again.

The market for British flowers is likely to grow, but I’m keen to meet this demand by marrying greater mechanisation with ecological production techniques.

I want to expand our team with people who can embrace this approach.

As input prices rise and subsidy payments disappear, I guess many readers will be re-evaluating their own objectives too. I wish you an enjoyable and successful year ahead.

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