Farming investments on hold as confidence plummets amid Brexit uncertainty, says survey

NFU East Anglia regional director Rachel Carrington. Picture: Warren Page/Pagepix Ltd.

NFU East Anglia regional director Rachel Carrington. Picture: Warren Page/Pagepix Ltd. - Credit: Warren Page/Pagepix Ltd.

The farming industry's confidence for the coming years has hit an all-time low amid the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, an industry poll suggests.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) said uncertainty was making it 'almost impossible' for any food producing business to plan properly, as its latest member survey showed farmers' confidence was falling.

More than a fifth (21pc) of the 732 farmers and growers across the country quizzed for the survey said they were intending to reduce investment over the next 12 months as a result of Brexit. In East Anglia, industry leaders said regional concerns echoed the national findings.

Short-term confidence for the coming year has dropped by 19 points since the autumn to a negative score, reaching its lowest level since April 2016.

Mid-term confidence, which looks at the next three years, is at its lowest point since the survey began in 2010.

NFU East Anglia regional director Rachel Carrington said: 'This survey reinforces the information we've received anecdotally from members across the region as the Brexit uncertainty continues.

'In the current situation it's almost impossible for any food-producing business to plan properly. How can Norfolk farmers make major investment decisions when they don't know what the trading environment will look like after March, or how farms will access workers from outside the UK in future?

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'There are farmers lambing at the moment with no guarantee about what market they will be selling into in three months' time, let alone a year or two down the line.

'This isn't just a concern for farmers, but for the rural economy and rural employment as well. Farms in the region generate agricultural produce worth £3.4bn a year, employ 40,000 people and support many more jobs in allied industries.

'Productive, profitable and progressive farms are central to our ability to produce safe, traceable and affordable food for the nation, while protecting and enhancing our cherished countryside.

'Confidence to invest is crucial if we are to continue to serve the country in this way, because farming is a long-term business.'