UK farm income falls by 17% in 2018
New Total Income from Farming figures demonstrate the need for clear measures that can allow farmers to manage volatility, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has warned.
The figures show that total UK farm profitability fell by 17% from £5.63 billion in 2017 to £4.7 billion last year.
Total income from farming records the total profit from all UK farming businesses on a calendar year basis. The figures are collated annually by the Office for National Statistics to measure farm profitability.
In 2018, agriculture contributed £9,586 million to the national economy (Gross Value Added), a decrease of £626 million (6%) on the year.
Over the same period, gross output increased by £583 million (2%) to £26,651 million. However, this was largely mitigated by higher input costs – including fuel, feed and fertiliser.
Crop output value rose by 2% to £9,388 million. The cold, wet spring followed by the dry, hot summer contributed to lower yields of key crops; however, better prices helped offset production falls.
The value of total livestock output rose by 3% to £14,800 million. Prices were generally higher but the challenging weather conditions affected volumes. The late cold spring disrupted lambing and the hot, dry summer led to poor grass growth and difficulties feeding livestock.
Total Income from Farming per worker (farmers and other unpaid labour) also fell by 19% in real terms to £23,957.
‘We need to deal with volatility’
Responding to the publication of the figures, NFU president Minette Batters said: “These figures are a stark reminder of the impact last year’s weather has had on British farming and demonstrates just how exposed agriculture is to increasingly volatile weather.
From the Beast from the East to the summer drought, farmers have seen reduced crop yields, tightening feed availability and increased input costs as a result.
“It is yet another example of how farm businesses are constantly dealing with volatility.
“When the Agriculture Bill goes through Parliament, it is crucial it is strengthened to include robust measures that can give farmers the tools to deal with this.
“Food and farming contribute £122 billion to the economy, and this figure has risen steadily over the years. It clearly demonstrates the strategic importance of farm businesses to the country and the farmers and growers that provide food for the nation, all while caring for our countryside. This must be recognised by the Government.”