Mood positive among cereal farmers despite markets, survey finds

Despite depressed markets, those operating in the cereals sector are mostly optimistic about the future, with almost half thinking the public’s perception of farming and changing techniques in crop and soil management present them with their biggest opportunities.

This was the outcome of a survey of 118 farmers, managers and farm employees conducted by Lloyds Bank Agriculture at the Cereals Event, held on 10 and 11 June at Boothby Graffoe, Lincolnshire. Lloyds Bank senior manager Steve Thomas said it was encouraging that two thirds of those questioned felt the economic prospects for their business would improve over the next five years.

“At a time of such intense market volatility, the mood was overwhelmingly positive,” said Mr Thomas. “82% of those asked to rate their level of ‘happiness’ to be working in agriculture at the moment gave a score of at least 6 out of a possible 10, with one in eight awarding a full 10.”

He said that while more than a third cited the volatility of world market prices as their greatest concern, 16% saw this as an opportunity. Likewise, while a fifth said the potential for the UK to exit Europe and lose subsidies was their biggest worry, 15% thought this was their most positive opportunity for the future.

“Around 60% of those questioned felt there were better prospects ahead for the whole industry,” said Mr Thomas. “And this explained why more than half were planning investment this year – mostly to replace old or obsolete machinery, but 16% were looking to fund renewables projects and 10%, a shift to low or no till farming and precision equipment.”

He added that from those who disclosed the amount they were planning to invest this year, the average spend was just under £130,000. “The biggest investment was going to be £1.5m on a renewable energy installation, but a couple of farmers were planning to spend up to £500,000 replacing old equipment,” said Mr Thomas.

He said the findings at Cereals were broadly in line with feedback he and his colleagues were getting from Lloyds Bank customers in the field. “There is a firm view that long term outlooks are positive and even in a downturn, it’s important to keep investing to secure returns for the future.”

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