Brexit set to be catalyst for change, Suffolk farmers at Savills breakfast event at Wherstead, Ipswich, told
PUBLISHED: 15:45 10 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:45 10 November 2017
Brexit will be a catalyst for big change on the UK’s farms and estates, experts predicted this week.
Giles Hanglin, head of Savills rural research team, gave Suffolk farmers, gathered at a breakfast event held at Wherstead Park, Ipswich, on Wednesday, November 8, the UK farming backdrop to Brexit negotiations.
He explained how farm productivity in the UK had flatlined over a prolonged period, while economies such as New Zealand and Australia had seen theirs rise.
Farmers who were reliant on farm subsidy “probably should not be farming”, he said, as he outlined the position as Brexit looms. The subsidy system would change, with environmental issues playing a far greater role.
He explained how the make-up of the land would have an impact. At the moment, across the UK, two thirds of agricultural land was used for grazing, with just a quarter used to grow arable crops, and a further 5% given over to woodland.
Since 1973, pig production had reduced to 79% of what it was, milk and beef had flatlined and wheat, after an initial steep rise over a decade had also plateaued. Chicken, meanwhile had seen a 263% increase, while lamb production had risen to 124%.
Over the same period, beef and lamb consumption had fallen, while that of chicken and ready meals rose. Added to this, grazing livestock farms were most reliant on subsidy, while horticulture and poultry were least reliant. UK cost of production of sheep was twice that of Australia, and UK cost of production of beef twice that of Brazil. But UK consumers as a whole shopped on price above provenance, he pointed out.
“About 85% of this country shop on price,” he said. “That’s a scary number.”
Michael Horton, head of Savills rural team in the east, pointed out that the rural economy wasn’t isolated from outside forces, such as political uncertainty, and said it was increasingly likely there would be change of government. At the same time, farm subsidy was not an issue which was well understood.
“A lot of people don’t understand it in the UK and we have to justify why we should have any money at all and it’s increasingly difficult,” he said. “The government could do us a lot of good by introducing some element of restructuring assistance.”