The latest quarterly survey by Hitachi Capital Business Finance which focuses on the prospects for growth amongst small businesses suggests that the post-pandemic outlook for agriculture in the UK is looking significantly brighter compared with other industry sectors.
The survey found that 12% of farmers were concerned that their businesses would struggle to survive the Coronavirus outbreak whereas an average of 30% of small businesses in all other sectors feared for their future. Of those who thought they would have to ‘downsize’ their businesses, 24% of farmers said that their businesses were likely to contract, compared with an average of 32.5% across all other sectors. The survey also reported that 45% of farmers – the highest figure among all sectors – thought that there would be no change to their businesses between pre and post-lockdown.
But, of course, the sector doesn’t escape unscathed. While farmers are more confident about the future than others, the virus will still leave its mark. Just 18% of farmers are anticipating some growth – down significantly on the 30% reported by the previous survey in the first quarter of 2020.
There will be indirect effects on agriculture too. For example, some 51% of respondents in the hospitality and leisure sector, which includes the restaurant trade and other out-of-home food outlets, say that their businesses will struggle to survive. Given the volume of food sold into these sectors, farmers will be concerned that this will have an impact on demand for their products.
Overall, however, the survey appears to underline the resilience of the farming industry and that, generally, farmers remain confident that they can see out the Coronavirus threat with relatively little damage to their businesses and growth prospects.