Arable farmers face a "big hit" to profits this year following six months of exceptionally wet weather and dwindling support payments, warned rural agents.

Strutt & Parker's estimated net margin for an average-performing combinable crops business for harvest 2024 has fallen to a "worryingly low" £80/ha.

This is 60pc lower than in 2023, which itself was a year in which net margins dropped significantly on the previous couple of years because of high production costs.

Although variable costs have fallen considerably this year, mainly due to lower fertiliser prices, income from crop sales is forecast to be down on 2023 levels, due to expected lower yields.

The analysis assumes growers have managed to drill spring crops on any unplanted winter crop area, but in some areas even this has proved impossible and some growers have chosen to enter more land into schemes like the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI).

Meanwhile the net margin forecast for a higher-performing combinable crops business is much higher at £271/ha – based on the assumption they will achieve higher yields and with lower fixed costs than the average business.

However, this figure is still significantly lower than the company's 2021 baseline, when the net margin was £622/ha.

Jonathan Armitage, head of farming for Strutt & Parker, said: “The impact of the weather has been felt everywhere, but some areas are clearly worse affected than others and different soil types will also have an impact, so in that sense farm profitability is somewhat of a postcode lottery.

“Even when applying this ‘best case’ scenario, our analysis points to worryingly low net margins for an average-performing farm for harvest 2024, considering the level of risk involved."

Mr Armitage noted that research "consistently points to the top-performing businesses being led by, and employing, people who have a mindset which is open to change, an attention to detail, a focus on marginal gains and who are constantly looking for new opportunities".

“This message is more important than ever in this business environment," he added.