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Agricultural Outlook 2013

MARKET UPDATE

  • NI bank borrowing to agri has fallen from £900m peak in late 2009 to £790m by late 2012. The fall of £110m is significant and, some argue, is a sign that banks are not lending to the sector.  In my view it is further evidence of the huge investment made under the Farm Nutrient Management Scheme and a sign that sectors are repaying debt well.  We are still keen to grow our market share.
  • In addition to the £780m there is approx £180m in asset finance and £100m merchant credit.
  • Many livestock farmers had a difficult 2012 with poor weather, low quality silage and high grain prices. Pressure has increased further with late spring in 2013, little grass growth and associated cash flow pressures. Overdrafts are more solid, some have been increased and others will need increased facilities and/or debt restructured to ease cash flow
  • The weather aid fund has helped get money onto farms quickly. It is designed to help with short term cash flow pressures associated with eg buying in fodder.
  •  Sterling has weakened slightly over the past yr and, at 85p, gives NI farmers a competitive advantage into the GB market.
  • CAP still to be resolved and while there will be cuts it is hoped the changes to area based payments will be phased and managed.

Milk

Volatility is alive and well but this time in our favour with prices up significantly on last yr and likely to stay strong through the summer/early autumn.

Many farmers will be trying to reduce overdrafts back to normal levels, reduce merchant credit and pay other bills.

Farmers increasingly aware that profit is dependant on total cost of production rather than milk price – finding the right balance between input use and milk output remains the key.

Beef/Sheep

The fallout of the horsemeat scandal has helped the local beef sector with FAQ cattle in demand and meat plants searching for increasingly scarce stock. With a late spring there will be few grass fed beef available for some time yet.

Poultry/Pigs

Some broiler growers had a very difficult start to 2013 due to poor quality feed. However performance appears to be returning to normal.

Significant growth planned in broiler housing in next yr.

Returns from egg laying units remains good with likely demand for further housing as the year progresses.

The pig market remains strong but margins have been dented by continued high grain prices which show little sign of falling. However it appears that EU pig production will fall as some producers have not made the necessary investment needed to comply with new sow welfare legislation. Hopefully NI producers, all of whom are compliant, will see pork prices increase in the same way as compliant egg producers have.

Of bigger concern is meal price which was forecast to ease in H2. The continued poor weather with delayed sowings in the larger grain growing areas may prevent the expected price fall filtering through to far level.

Land

 Good land continues to hold its value at approx £10k/ac.

Hill farms have increased in value driven by the proposed move to area based payments, potential for wind turbines etc.

Average/poor LFA land appears to have fallen in value with weak demand.

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