East Anglia: Recovery for non-farming rural businesses now extending to agriculture, says CLA

Nicola Currie, regional director of the Country Land and Business Association. Nicola Currie, regional director of the Country Land and Business Association.

Saturday, December 14, 2013
6:00 AM

Farming businesses are looking forward to a more prosperous 2014, with sales and profits now expected to show an improvement on the past 12 months, according to a new survey.

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The latest Rural Economy Index produced by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and rural surveyors Smiths Gore, says growth has spread from non-farming businesses into the agricultural sector during final third of 2013.

As a result, for the first time in a year, more farming businesses are now reporting rising rather than falling sales.

Agricultural businesses expect profitability to be higher over the next 12 months, the first time this has been recorded since the second quarter of 2012, with a net positive balance of 11%. Profit expectations for non-agricultural businesses, meanwhile, have risen by a record net balance of plus 48%.

Non-agricultural rural businesses, such as property and tourism enterprises, also reported a more positive outlook for jobs, with a balance of 9% more expecting to employ more rather than fewer people, although expectations for employment in farm businesses were flat.

CLA East regional director Nicola Currie said: “It is good news that recovery in the rural economy is now firmly rooted and we can look forward to 2014 with greater confidence. For most farming businesses, the pessimism of the last year has gone, and they are now looking forward to higher sales and profits in the next year.

“This is welcome news for the eastern region’s rural sector, which had seemed in the doldrums at times during 2013 with confidence hit by bad weather, poor harvests and the rising price of livestock feed.”

However, Mrs Currie said the full impact of the latest flooding in coastal areas had yet to be accounted for. And she added: “In order to keep confidence high and to drive the rural economy forwards, the CLA believes the Government needs to implement the MacDonald task force recommendations fully.

“This will reduce the negative impacts of over regulation, so that farmers are not faced with unnecessary legislation. It also needs to put in place a broadband infrastructure that is effective, affordable and available to all.”

Smiths Gore’s head of research, Dr Jason Beedell, said: “Business support is very important to sustain the recovery, and the investment strategies being prepared by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) right now must support rural businesses.

“Rural businesses need to understand this funding and work with their LEPs to ensure it supports them. The rural economy is significant, with 28% of all British businesses and a quarter of the population.”