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1st May 2024
Jason Cantrill of Ceres Rural addressing the NFU Lovewell Blake Farmers Evening at Halesworth

Farmers must be innovative and keep progressing their businesses if they are to ride the current ‘storm’.  That was the message heard by around 60 Norfolk and Suffolk farmers at the latest joint NFU/Lovewell Blake Farmers’ Evening in Halesworth.

Two speakers from leading agricultural consultancy Ceres Rural outlined the opportunities available to farming businesses to ride the storm of the climate, economic and market forces - including a look at maximising grant opportunities currently available to the sector, and what to look out for in the future.

“We are always going to have different waves coming towards us, of different scales,” said Jason Cantrill, partner at the firm.  “Having the ability to adapt, change and navigate, that is always very important.

“It’s important that we stay motivated.  We can’t let others get on top of us and we need to be innovative and keep progressing the business.”

Outlining the main challenges of the past three years, including uncertainty caused by global events, soaring input costs and fluctuating output prices, Mr Cantrill said the situation is exacerbated by the fact that the direct support available to farmers has dwindled.

Mr Cantrill’s colleague Katie Crawford told attendees that they had to look at all options, including whether it was justified to take land out of food production altogether.

“You have to look at your gross margins, and compare what you are doing in terms of what you could do under stewardship,” she said.

“Can you justify taking some land out of production?  Can you justify having your own combine?  Do you want to start looking at contract farming arrangements?  These aren’t decisions you want to rush into, but the more data you can get about what it’s costing you, the more informed decisions you can take.”

Ms Crawford said that farming has always been a sector which has had to adapt to survive – but that the current situation required a more focussed approach.  “We’ve got to adapt and thrive in the new world we are entering, and eventually we need to become a much more professional industry, even more focussed, more technically adept.

“We are going to have some difficult times that are going to require some very grown-up and difficult decisions.  There will be some casualties, but there will also be many opportunities, and the businesses that actually thrive and go forward and benefit will be the ones at the sharp end of things.

“We have really got to ride a storm, but we don’t want to be that person who’s coming over the fence without his horse.  We have to try and stay in partnership with one another and survive for the future.”

Lovewell Blake agricultural partner Ryan Lincoln, who chaired the event, said, “Few in farming will disagree that we are currently riding something of a perfect storm, and Jason and Katie’s presentations eloquently articulated both the problems those choppy waters are causing, and some of the potential ways that farmers can navigate to calmer seas.”

The event was one of a series of regular Farmers’ Evenings in Halesworth organised jointly by Suffolk Coastal NFU and chartered accountants Lovewell Blake.  Details of forthcoming events will be posted at www.lovewell-blake.co.uk/events.