Volatility and uncertainty top farmers' concerns in Yorkshire, NFU reveals

It is vitally important for politicians to lift some of the 'mist' hanging over the future of farming so that Yorkshire's important food and drink industry can plan ahead with a far greater degree of certainty, a leading farming spokesman for the region has warned.

Adam Bedford, the regional director of the National Farmers' Union. Picture by James Hardisty.

Adam Bedford, the regional director of the National Farmers’ Union for Yorkshire and the North East, said he was worried by the emphasis on uncertainly with such little time left for the Government to firm up its post-Brexit plans for the industry.

His comments come as the NFU gave The Yorkshire Post an exclusive insight into the findings of a business confidence survey of its Yorkshire members.

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Almost half - 49 per cent - of the 208 Yorkshire farmers who responded to the survey said their most pressing issues related to the volatility of prices they receive for their produce and the cost of key extra business costs such as fuel, fertiliser and feed.

Asked to outline their biggest concerns, 19 per cent of farmers cited input prices, machinery prices and, or, the exchange rate as being their main concern.

Another 17 per cent cited uncertainty and or planning for the future, 13 per cent highlighted Brexit and the same proportion again identified their chief concern as commodity or farmgate prices.

Mr Bedford said: “A year on from the launch of our Pride & Provenance campaign, which now represents 83 companies that collectively turn over £3bn and employ 25,000 people, it’s clear that Yorkshire’s thriving farming, food and drink companies have their eyes firmly set on the future and what their trading environment will be like post Brexit.

“It is worrying that with less than a year to go there is still such an emphasis on uncertainty, something that can only damage the ability of farming and wider supply chain companies to prepare and plan ahead.”

Mr Bedford added: “Given the importance of the farming, food and drink sector to Yorkshire’s local economy, it is vital that some of the mist begins to lift in terms of clarifying UK farming policy, confirming government plans to ensure access to a competent reliable workforce and ensuring the UK enjoys favourable relationships with our key trading partners.

“It is also clear that as we transition into life outside the EU, the entire agri-food sector will need to pull together to deliver a secure future for all.”

Other key issues raised by farmers who completed the NFU’s survey include the future trading regime, labour supply and retention, cashflow and profitability.

Uncertainty over what a domestic agriculture policy will look like is reflected with 11 per cent citing uncertainty over future support as a pressing concern.

The issues facing farmers have been compounded by the impacts of the long period of wet and cold weather that extended into the spring and the now the heatwave conditions - both of which have limited how much work farmers have been able to do on their land.

Mr Bedford said: “The very real pressures put on farmers across all sectors by this year’s extremes of weather, highlight all too clearly how vulnerable food production can be to impacts beyond the producer’s control.

“As we approach Brexit, we must not lose sight of that and must ensure that we prioritise food security alongside the need to safeguard and manage an increasingly biodiverse environment.”

CONCERNS GO RIGHT UP THE CHAIN

The NFU’s survey included wider food and drink supply chain companies in the region.

A preview of the survey’s findings show that 31 per cent of the 51 companies that were surveyed said skills and, or, labour availability were their most pressing concern.

Another 18 per cent said their biggest worries concerned consumer confidence and, or, falling demand for their goods, and questioning whether people will be less willing to spend post-Brexit.

In addition, the survey found that one in ten businesses referenced supply chain issues, citing “pressure to reduce food costs” and a “potential restriction of supply of materials grown in the EU” as issues of serious concern.