People keep telling me that times are hard in agriculture. I’m not sure I can actually remember a time when people didn’t tell me times were hard in agriculture, but the problems do vary over the years and we do have some very special ones at the moment.
I’ll try to limit the negativity, but here are a few reminders of what’s clearer than ever as 2016 gets going: Food around the world is cheap and, for now, is going to stay that way, no matter how big the population is going to be in 2050. China isn’t going to solve all our problems. It’s got its own. The same goes for Brazil, Russia and India, so forget the BRICs as a way out. Our currency is highly unstable, so forget being able to budget for long periods ahead. Our politicians are not on our side (just read Michael Wale’s report from Oxford, or Richard Wright’s note on planned changes to tax returns if you’re not convinced).
It’s no use hoping to survive on public sympathy, or because everyone fundamentally needs your product. Just try popping round to your nearest deep coal mine and asking how that’s going as a survival strategy.
Efficiency is absolutely the only way forward for UK agriculture. Farming in a populous western country presents some special challenges. You can’t bank on prices going your way, regulators making life simpler or consumers getting less demanding. There’s no sign of any of those things happening.
That’s why we highlight farms such as New Forest Fruit. I’m not suggesting you all move to somewhere just outside Southampton and start putting up glasshouses, but I am suggesting that you follow best practice, build on what works and respond to what your customer needs. As we start a difficult year, the best in British agriculture, the people who read Farm Business, are putting their best efforts into making farming work. It’s a great challenge, but the rewards are there and they’re worth it.
Editor Farm Business