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Bank finds farmers 'optimistic'

SCOTTISH FARMERS are 'optimistic' about the years ahead, despite the damage caused in 2012.

According to the annual Bank of Scotland Agricultural report, while only an 8% minority of Scottish farmers felt their industry was currently prosperous, 28% of farmers were either optimistic or very optimistic about the long term future – the second-highest level since the survey began 17 years ago.

Bank analysts said the industry was expecting a period of growth over the next five years, with expansion planned across most sectors. Growing global population and rising demand for food meant that, with the exception of lamb, Scottish farmers believed that prices for all produce would rise over the next year.

Responding to these results, CabSec Richard Lochhead gave a tempered view: "Although this is a relatively small survey, it still makes interesting reading. Scotland's farmers have undoubtedly faced challenges in recent months, but it is encouraging that this survey shows that optimism is at its second highest level in 17 years, with most sectors planning for expansion in the next five years.

"It is also good news that profitability, although down slightly on last year, remains high and the percentage of businesses profitable without Single Farm Payment has risen to 36% – the highest in the last four years.

"2013 is a crucial year for agriculture, with key decisions on CAP reform due to be made in Europe. I will continue to fight to get the best possible deal for Scottish farmers and share the sentiments overwhelmingly expressed by this survey – SFP support should only go to those who are actively farming and working to put food on our tables and manage our magnificent landscape."

The survey also concluded that despite difficult current conditions, farmers were still maintaining a 'long-term, strategic view' by investing in their enterprises. Investment across Scotland's farms in 2012 was higher than predicted at the start of the year. 45% invested in plant and equipment, after only 28% stated last year that they planned to do so.

Bank of Scotland chief economist Donald MacRae said: "Despite the economic climate, agriculture remains an attractive and relatively secure sector for investors thanks to valuable farm assets, positive prices for produce and high levels of support in terms of subsidies.

"Bad weather might be challenging for farmers in growing crops and tending animals but it does reinforce the world's increasing demand for food. As a result the long term prospects for Scotland's oldest industry must surely remain bright."

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