Farmers' confidence is at an all-time low, according to an industry survey - prompting urgent  warnings over the need to protect homegrown food production.

The National Farmers' Union's (NFU's) research shows confidence in the sector at its lowest since records began in 2010.

As a result, production intentions have also plummeted, with all farming sectors expecting to decrease production during the next year.

The relentless wet weather has played a major part, says the report, with 82pc of respondents saying their farm businesses have suffered "fairly negative" or "very negative" impacts.

Since the survey was undertaken in November and December there has been more prolonged rainfall and the NFU says, if it was undertaken again today, "the results would be even worse".

The union is calling for the government to recognise the "extraordinary nature" of the wettest 18 months since 1836, warning that many farms may be unable to survive - with 65pc of respondents saying their profits are falling.

Eastern Daily Press: Tom Bradshaw, president of the National Farmers' UnionTom Bradshaw, president of the National Farmers' Union (Image: NFU)

NFU president Tom Bradshaw, who farms near Colchester in Essex, said: “These figures paint a really stark picture. Confidence has collapsed after months of devastating flooding, unsustainably high production costs and low market returns, and against a backdrop of reduced farm support as we transition to a new domestic agriculture policy and associated farm support.

“Any business owner knows that without confidence and a steady cash flow, businesses will struggle to re-invest and remain viable.

"We have already lost more than 7,000 agricultural businesses since 2019 – no one wants to see that increase, least of all our customers who really value the high quality, sustainable food British farmers produce."

The NFU has published a general election "manifesto", suggesting solutions which political parties can adopt to help safeguard homegrown food production.

They include "rewarding farmers fairly for their role in mitigating flood risk" and committing to the proactive management of watercourses, a "smooth and seamless transition" to new environmental incentives, and establishing minimum standards "to promote a fair and functioning supply chain".

“A lot is hanging in the balance ahead of the general election," said Mr Bradshaw. "Political parties will rightly be focusing on how to reverse the cost-of-living crisis, and with food inflation still high and families struggling with food bills, supporting homegrown food production must be part of this.

“The good news is that there are solutions the current and future governments can adopt to help rebuild farm business confidence, from investment in our water management to developing core production standards for food imports."

Eastern Daily Press:  Nick Deane, who farms at Hoveton, is the NFU Council representative for Norfolk Nick Deane, who farms at Hoveton, is the NFU Council representative for Norfolk (Image: NFU)

Nick Deane, who farms at Hoveton, and is the NFU Council representative for Norfolk, said: “Having spoken to our members in Norfolk regularly over the last 12 months these survey results come as no surprise.

“The combined impact of the weather and financial pressures has left many farmers increasingly concerned with long-term repercussions.

“Fairness in the supply chain in all sectors must give a better return to farmers in order to regain food production confidence.

“Without this confidence, there is no reinvestment for the medium and long term.

“Any future government must ensure a fair trading background for farmers to balance environmental objectives, food and the energy needs of our country.”