Farmers hit by Brexit ‘malaise’ failing to plan ahead, top banker warns
PUBLISHED: 16:43 02 February 2018 | UPDATED: 16:43 02 February 2018
Too many farmers are waiting to learn more about Brexit rather than taking a proactive stance with their business, a top agricultural banker has warned.
Speaking at a charity agricultural event at Newmarket, Neil Wilson, head of agriculture at HSBC, said while they should be planning ahead, many were saying they didn’t know what was happening and failing to act, creating a “bit of a malaise” around the industry.
“The biggest challenge farm businesses we deal with around the country over the next year or two or three will be around planning,” he told delegates at the Back British Farming Breakfast.
“Actually, given the uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to start planning about where you want to go and what direction you want to take businesses in, and actually getting on top of the things you can control.”
The event, on Friday, February 2, was organised by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI).
Mr Wilson, who heads up a national team of 90, said while there had been a focus on subsidy, a good post-Brexit trade deal was probably more important.
“The key for me is around about those trade deals,” he said. “We have to push hard on getting the right trade deals.”
The short-term positive for the sector was the weakening of the currency since the Brexit vote. But for farmers, the focus had to be on their businesses, he said.
“We have been looking at the best businesses. They are the resilient, cash generative, forward thinking businesses. They are always learning, looking ahead, they are never looking behind,” he said.
Those businesses didn’t get hung up on the fluctuating price of wheat, he said.
“They are just very, very focused on things like technology, progress, looking ahead and how they can always improve their businesses.”
Those successful farmers also got off farm regularly to talk to others and gain insights into better ways of running their operations, he said.
“Let’s get back to influencing the things we really can influence.”
RABI trustee Stephen Miles described how the farm charity was continuing to help people from farming businesses across the age ranges. It was important to raise awareness of the work it did, he said.