The forecast net margin for average-performing combinable crops businesses for harvest 2024 has fallen to £80/ha, which is 60% lower than 2023.

This is according to Strutt & Parker’s revised 2024 and 2025 arable profitability forecasts, which show the financial impact of six months of wet weather, as well as changes in commodity prices and falling basic payments.

Strutt & Parker said the figures highlight the need to identify, assess and address the full range of business risks growers are facing, as part of a strategy to shield their businesses from high levels of volatility.

Income crop sales are forecast to be down on 2023 levels due to expected lower yields.

Strutt & Parker said its analysis assumes growers have managed to drill spring crops on any unplanted winter crop area, but in some areas even this has proved impossible and/or growers have chosen to enter more land into schemes like the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI).

Head of farming for Strutt & Parker, Jonathan Armitage, said: “The impact of the weather has been felt everywhere, but some areas are clearly worse affected than others and different soil types will also have an impact, so in that sense farm profitability is somewhat of a postcode lottery.

“Even when applying this ‘best case’ scenario, our analysis points to worryingly low net margins for an average-performing farm for harvest 2024, considering the level of risk involved.

“Our estimated net margin for a higher-performing combinable crops business is much higher at £271/ha – based on the assumption that they will achieve higher yields and with lower fixed costs than the average business.

“However, this figure is still significantly lower than our 2021 baseline when the net margin was £622/ha.”

Top performers

If crop rotations and yields return to more normal levels for harvest 2025, then the net margin is forecast to rise to £214/ha for an average-performing farm and £449/ha for a higher-performing farm.

Strutt & Parker said the estimates highlight the importance of applying the behaviours and attention to detail needed to get into the top 25% of performers.

“Research consistently points to the top-performing businesses being led by, and employing, people who have a mindset which is open to change, an attention to detail, a focus on marginal gains and who are constantly looking for new opportunities,” Armitage said.

“This message is more important than ever in this business environment.

“So, too, is actively managing risk which is a way for growers to put themselves in the driving seats of their businesses and protect themselves from the worst effects of extreme volatility.”