Thursday, January 17, 2019

Focus on farm business ahead of ‘watershed’ year

January 2, 2019 by  
Filed under News & Business

Farmers are being advised to ensure their businesses are best placed for Brexit – despite continued uncertainty about the UK leaving the European Union.

“The coming  year promises to be a watershed for UK agriculture,” says Richard King, head of business research at the Anderson’s Centre. “But while Brexit grabs all the attention, UK farming needs to continue with the day job of improving efficiency and profitability.”

With the UK scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March, the 2019 Andersons Outlook report says the terms of Brexit – with all its implications for trade in farm products – will become clear over the next 12 months.

“Even the closest of future partnerships with Europe will be different from the current situation,” says Mr King.

Massive upheaval

“A no-deal outcome would see a massive upheaval in the agri-food sector. However there is little an individual farmer can do to influence the political process. Instead, the aim should be to set your busines up to be as robust as possible, so it can thrive whatever the business climate.”

The Outlook publication sets out the short-term prospects for the main sectors of UK farming – and some of the key business issues to address as it faces what Mr King describes as a period of unprecedented upheaval.

This year should also see the government’s Agriculture Bill become law. Although the changes will not happen for a few years, this will signal a fundamental shift away from direct payments towards a new system largely based on rewarding farmers for delivering environmental measures.

Lack of ambition

“The lack of ambition in the Agricuture Bill is disappointing,” says Mr King.

“It compares unfavourably with the 1947 Agriculture Act, which had a clear vision for the whole farming sector and a comprehensive suite of policies to achieve it. Current government policy seems set on leaving agriculture to its own devices in terms of food production.”

Policy-makers should realise that growth in the agri-food sector could be achieved without large sums of public money, suggested Mr King, simply through the government coordinating and engaging with farming.

“The focus on the next 12 months needs to be on improving the efficiency of the farming industry,” he says. “The range in performance between businesses is large and getting wider with the best farms continuing  to innovate and improve, while many others tread water.”

Andersons will be running a series of seminars in the spring looking at the prospects for UK agriculture in light of the Brexit outcome. For full details and to download the Outlook 2019 report, visit www.theadnersonscentre.co.uk.

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