JAN 17, 2014: The recovery of the economy in rural areas is now ‘firmly rooted’, according to a survey – and many smallholders are sharing a sense of renewed optimism.
The Country Land and Business Association says there was continued improvement in 2013, with more farm businesses experiencing rising than falling sales. The survey also highlighted a positive outlook for 2014. Profits from agricultural businesses are expected to rise in the next 12 months for the first time since the first quarter of 2012. CLA president Henry Robinson said: “Rural areas were last to enter the recession, so it is good news that recovery in the rural economy is now firmly rooted. ”For 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.” The air of optimism was echoed by some smallholders. CS writer and prizewinning pig breeder Liz Shankland said: “I’ve certainly seen a lot of small rural businesses in south Wales blossoming in 2013 – and a huge increase in the number of farmers’ or ‘rural’ markets being set up. “I’ve been amazed at the interest in local produce and the willingness of shoppers to pay that bit extra for meat which has been raised just a few miles away and to high welfare standards.” Liz said many smallholders have been forced to give up their dreams in recent years because of soaring feed prices – but predictions are that cereal prices are back on the way down now. Another writer, Sally Morgan, said: “It would be nice to think that things are picking up but I have not seen much evidence in Somerset. “The main farming market does seem to be picking up in certain sectors – the organic trend continues upwards – but beef farmers, conventional and organic are being squeezed on price and I hate to think of the damage done to autumn-sown crops by the Christmas floods. I know of one farmer /smallholder in Devon who lost 20 head of sheep in the floods and another in Wiltshire that had to carry out an emergency evacuation of sheep on a 60-acre field that had never flooded before.” Pammy Riggs, who runs a poultry business in north Devon, said: “My firm belief is that you make your own reality by setting sensible and realistic goals and following them through with hard work and a positive attitude. “Smallholders have, in some ways, an advantage over larger farms and enterprises because it is possible to have a personal handle on all parts of a small enterprise.”