UK agriculture 'set for new era of profitability'
Andrew Heskin, a partner at East of England accountancy firm Moore Thompson and a member of the UK200Group’s agriculture special interest group, has been advising agricultural businesses for more than 20 years.
And he says that a positive outlook for the sector is making it increasingly attractive to new entrants.
"UK agriculture went through a long period of stagnation in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, during which government policy was unhelpful and it was very hard to make money out of farming," he said.
“Now, after a few good years, we seem to have turned a corner. Profitability has improved and a new generation of talented, entrepreneurial people can see the opportunities farming offers as a long-term career.
“The signs of the revival are not just in farming itself. For example, Brooksby Melton College in Leicestershire, which specialises in land-based courses such as agriculture and animal care, is undergoing a major redevelopment, including a £1 million Animal & Equine Centre.
“Through my work with an agricultural engineering trade body, I have also seen the development of sophisticated, cutting edge technology, such as low emission farm machinery, to support the sector and improve operational and financial efficiency. Even fairly modest farming operations are now benefiting from other developments, such as genetic testing – including in the womb – to maximise the quality of livestock.
“The farming generation that went through the long period of stagnation are now coming up to retirement and often their farm managers and other members of their teams are in a similar position.
“So farmers need to be giving serious thought to their succession planning, both on their own behalf and for their staff, by thinking about how to bring on board high calibre people to take farming enterprises into the future.
“Farm managers, for example, need a wide range of skills, from knowing how to grow crops to liaising directly with supermarkets, buyers and other customers and managing teams that for some of the big flower and vegetable growers in our area can reach 200 or 300-strong at peak times.
“Farmers and farm managers can’t be experts in all the skills they will require in this new era. What they will need, more than ever, is access to a team of advisers – people like agronomists, accountants and lawyers – to help them put all the pieces together for business success.”
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