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Updates about the Horticulture Wales project, along with industry news and opinion.

Market Analysis: Farm Business Surveys – What Do They Tell Us About Growing?

28 January 2014

In the latest of our Market Analysis articles, we take a look at the latest annual income statistics for agricultural businesses…

Coins in question mark (284px * 406px)Earlier this month, the results for the Farm Business Survey in Wales 2012-13 were published. The surveys provide estimates on a number of measures including Net Farm Income which is intended as a measure of profitability enabling comparison of differing farm types. Despite showing declining incomes overall for Welsh farms, the figures suggest these decreases were less than for comparable farms over the border.

Welsh dairy farms showed almost a 10% less decrease in real terms in average net farm income compared to dairy farms in England, at 43% and 52% respectively, although the average net income figure for this type of farm in Wales (£32,500) remains just below that of England (£34,500). Welsh lowland grazing livestock farms also showed a lesser decline in average net incomes, falling by 28% compared to 72% in England, while for Welsh grazing livestock farms in Less Favoured Areas, the decline was 54%, similar to that in England of 51%.

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Unfortunately, for farms classified as “Horticulture” in nature, results are only available for England as the relatively small number of such establishments in Wales limits statistical analysis. These figures show a slightly greater decrease in real terms for horticulture farms (44%) than other crop farms (39% for cereals and 12% for general cropping) but this fall was far less than for dairy, grazing livestock, or mixed farms.

According to the Farm Business Survey for England, the decrease was attributed to reduced output from fruit, flowers, bulbs and hardy nursery stock due to the impact of bad weather in 2012 on the growing season. However, output from outdoor vegetables and potatoes actually increased (19% and 83% respectively) reflecting higher farm gate prices and a higher yield for some crops.

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Comparing the hectares used by horticultural farms in 2011-12 and 2012-13 for different types of crops, outdoor flowers and nursery stock saw a decrease of almost 20% in area, reflecting the vulnerability of these types of crops to poor weather conditions and seasonality. Top fruit, along with soft fruit and strawberries, both declined by an estimated 8% and 7% respectively, while glasshouse fruit increase by 12%, perhaps due to efforts to limit weather vulnerability. Outdoor vegetables also showed an estimated increase of 7% in growing area.

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Note: For Glasshouse Fruit an increase of 276% increase was reported.

 

The survey breaks down these figures further according to farm performance. This shows some interesting variations in the way ‘Low’, ‘Medium’ and ‘High’ performing horticulture farms have changed between 2011-12 and 2012-13.  The apparently large growth in glasshouse fruit area used by high performing farms comes from a relatively small initial base, however, it does perhaps reflect a move by these types of enterprise towards increased protection against the weather, both in terms of the crops and their investment. High performance businesses showed expansion in growing area over all categories except outdoor flowers and nursery stock (-20%), and a small decrease for top fruit. 

The figures suggest medium-sized horticulture farms experienced the greatest decreases in growing area, with five of the seven growing categories showing a 20% plus drop in growing area in 2012-13 compared with 2011-12. However, these farms did post modest increases in areas used for vegetable growing, both outdoors and in glasshouses. Comparatively, low performing horticulture farms showed an increase in glasshouse growing of flowers, nursery stock, and fruit, but a decline in both glasshouse and outdoor vegetable growing.

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The results of horticultural farms by performance may indicate a shift by higher-performing establishments towards vegetable crops and more protected growing – it will be interesting to note next year’s figures to see if this trend continues…

For other Market Analysis articles, click here…

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