The political and economic turmoil throughout large swathes of the globe last year has contributed to the rising cost of a lot of commodities, but this has had the knock-on effect of bolstering the British agricultural industry. Total farming sector profit was up £1.75bn to £8.84bn in 2011, according to a report from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).
In terms of contribution to the UK economy, food exports grew 11% last year, making it our fourth largest exports sector. There are now 303,000 people employed in farming, 10,000 more than the year before. Hot and dry weather elsewhere in the world have contributed to the profit growth: US wheat prices hit their highest point in seven months in trading Sydney today, rising 17% as a result of the heat and dryness on the southern plains in the US.
NFU president Peter Kendall said the results are evidence of a ‘tremendous turnaround’ in the UK farming industry, which has struggled with supermarkets driving down the cost of produce, and EU legislation imposing caps on surplus production.
Like a spring onion however, the news is hot and multi-layered. Britain’s self-sufficiency in food production has dropped by around 15% over the past 20 years, meaning that the trade balance is more heavily skewed in favour of importing foodstuffs. But with growth figures like those released today, it looks as if British farming is getting increasingly competitive, and more profitable for farmer Brown and his combine…