Over two-thirds of British farmers are not confident about the future of British food production, a new survey of livestock and arable farmers in the UK.
With official ONS figures showing food and drink inflation reached 19.1% in March – the fastest annual increase in prices for 46 years – there’s a growing call for more to be done to support households and the wider food supply chain. The soaring cost of basic essentials is exacerbating existing pressure from sky-high energy bills, leading to difficulties for many involved in the UK’s food production. So much so, the National Farmers Union’s latest survey revealed the vast majority (88%) of farmers are being impacted by input costs such as energy, fuel and fertiliser.
The survey was carried out by Hectare, a leading agritech business and it also found that only one in 10 livestock farmers think produce production will increase as inflationary pressures ease. Further, 14% of farmers who raise beef, sheep and poultry are concerned inflation rates will rise even higher than their current peak.
When asked about their biggest concerns over the next 12 months, British farmers – 26% of livestock farmers and 33% of grain farmers – said the lack of clarity around new government support schemes to replace the ending of the European Union Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) topped the list. Additionally, 12% of all farmers surveyed are ‘worried’ about the ending of the EU BPS, with 15% of grain farmers in particular concerned about difficulties in forecasting their cashflow over the next year.
Andrew Huxham, arable farmer and co-founder of Hectare, comments on the findings, “It’s not surprising British farmers lack confidence in the future of food production – it’s been an uncertain few years for everyone involved. Undoubtedly, many are feeling vulnerable post Brexit now the EU Basic Payments Scheme – seen by many as a base income which helps them weather the peaks and troughs inherent in agriculture – is being phased out. Trade deals with countries like Australia and Canada have also raised questions around fairness for British farmers, and how to secure quality and provenance when sourcing large quantities of our produce from overseas.”
However, Huxham does see cause for greater confidence, as he continues, “UK farmers should be confident about the future – good food production requires a real desire to produce quality food in a sustainable way that enhances the environment, and farmers are doing a really good job of this already. British farmers are very aware of the fragile environment and decline of species and habitats which has occurred over the decades – they care deeply about the environment and know there are more ways to increase sustainability measures to secure the future of domestic food production, while protecting and enhancing the environment for future generations.”
This desire to increase sustainability measures to secure the future of food production is already being reflected in the ever-increasing consumer awareness of where our food comes from, and it’s environmental impact. A survey which revealed in 2019 only 40% consumers in the UK bought from local shops, found this rose to 60% in 2020, as food grown locally has to travel fewer miles to be processed, so carbon emissions are reduced.