Report shows fall in farming profit

Fresh-produce growers in England saw profits fall by nearly half last year as the poor weather took its toll on crops, leading to the least profitable year in more than a decade.

New Defra data on farm business income, a measure of profitability, show a decline for average horticulture enterprises of 45 per cent in real terms to £30,000 for the year to the end of February. Less than £13,000 of this came from produce, with the rest made up from the Single Payment Scheme, agri-environment schemes and "diversification out of agriculture". The average figure across agriculture was £47,500 - down 32 per cent.

Around 23 per cent of growers made no profit at all, putting horticulture alongside pigs as the agricultural sector with the highest share of loss-making enterprises.

But the report, which no longer subdivides horticulture by type, states: "Output from outdoor vegetables and potatoes increased, reflecting higher farm gate prices and a higher yield for some crops."

NFU chief economist Phil Bicknell said: "These results highlight the financial impact of the appalling weather of 2012, which will shape farming's fortunes in 2013/14. Financially, this year is likely to be another tough one for some farming sectors."

He added: "From agricultural lenders to retailers, we know there's an understanding of the pressures faced by our industry. Many will again be backing British farmers in these volatile times and their support is valued. Indeed, we need similar consistency and support from Government to enable our farming industry to be resilient."

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