Agflation Remains at Decades’ High Levels

Andersons’ latest estimates for June show that Agflation now stands at 25.3%. Since the onset of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in February, input costs have soared and are at levels which have not been seen in decades.

Andersons’ Agflation index builds upon on Defra price indices for agricultural inputs and weights each input cost (e.g., animal feed) by the overall spend by UK farmers. Andersons then provides a more up-to-date estimate of the price index for each input cost category. As the ‘official’ Defra figures are updated, Andersons Agflation estimates are also adjusted to take account of the Defra updates.

In comparison with general inflation, as measured by the consumer prices index (CPI) and food prices (CPI Food) which stand at 9.1% and 8.5% respectively, Agflation is nearly three times higher. Given the current situation with the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the upheaval caused across numerous commodity supply-chains, particularly feed, fuel, and fertiliser, Agflation is set to remain at elevated levels for at least the remainder of this year.

Andersons ‘Agflation’ and UK Consumer Prices Index (CPI) – 2015 to 2023

Sources: ONS and Andersons

Notes: Andersons’ Agflation index builds upon on Defra price indices for agricultural inputs and weights each input cost (e.g., animal feed) by the overall spend by UK farmers. Andersons then provides a more up-to-date estimate of the price index for each input cost category.
* represents the % change versus the same month a year earlier.

Due to the surging input costs, many farm businesses are feeling a severe squeeze on margins. Thus far, some sectors have been better able to withstand the inflationary storm than others.

The arable sector is less affected for 2022 as most farmers have bought forward their fertiliser and output prices have hit record levels (although this contributes to feed cost rises for livestock). For many farmers in this position, 2022 is shaping up to be a stellar year – the value of the unharvested wheat crop has risen by more than 50% since it went in the ground. That said, challenges loom for 2023. High input costs and taxation on 2022 profits will stretch working capital requirements.

As alluded to above, the livestock sectors are under additional pressure due to the burden of increased feed costs, which account for nearly a quarter of the weighting for the Agflation Index. Whilst pig prices have risen, they remain insufficient to cover the soaring production costs that pig farmers have had to contend with in recent months.

Dairy and livestock farms have also been feeling the strain. The dairy sector has seen some significant price rises in recent months, partly because UK milk production volumes are down, and processors and retailers are trying to encourage farmers to boost their production to meet with consumer demand. This will help the dairy sector to mitigate some of the inflationary strain.

These severe inflationary pressures are occurring at a time when all farms in England are facing cuts in BPS payments, which will reach 35% during 2023.

In such times, it is crucial to demonstrate competent cost management, particularly in terms of working capital, which will be essential to steer farm businesses through the current crisis.

To celebrate the John Nix Pocketbook becoming part of The Andersons Centre’s publications portfolio, and as an antidote to inflation, we are offering a 10% discount on all purchases of the 52nd Edition of the Pocketbook. To avail of the discount, simply click the link below and apply the discount (coupon) code “PKB5210” during the checkout process. Offer is available while stocks last. Please visit: https://theandersonscentre.co.uk/shop/john-nix-pocketbook/

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Notes:

No. of Words: 602

Author: Michael Haverty

Date: 28th June 2022

This news release has been sent from The Andersons Centre, 3rd Floor, The Tower, Pera Office Park, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire LE13 0PB. For further information please contact Michael Haverty on +44 (0)7900 907 902.  

April Agflation Surpasses 30%

Since the turn of the year UK ‘Agflation’ has been soaring driven by primarily by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The latest estimates for April shows that it now stands at 30.6% – levels not seen in decades. All the while, general inflation, as measured by the consumer prices index (CPI) and food prices (CPI Food) have been rising at a much slower rate (circa 6%). This means that many farm businesses are now feeling a severe squeeze on margins and this is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

Andersons ‘Agflation’ and UK Consumer Prices Index (CPI) – 2015 to 2023

Sources: ONS and Andersons

Notes: Andersons’ Agflation index builds upon on Defra price indices for agricultural inputs and weights each input cost (e.g., animal feed) by the overall spend by UK farmers. Andersons then provides a more up-to-date estimate of the price index for each input cost category.
* represents the % change versus the same month a year earlier.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has had most effect on feed, fuel, and fertiliser prices. However, as these underpin most agricultural inputs in some form, cost increases are also showing elsewhere (e.g., contracting costs, crop protection products and building materials).
Several livestock sectors are showing signs of stress. The pressure is most pronounced in the pig and poultry sectors where feed traditionally accounts for 65-80% of production cost. Dairying and grazing livestock are also feeling the strain, particularly for those farms that have not bought forward their fertiliser.

The arable sector is less affected for 2022 as most farmers have bought forward their fertiliser and output prices have hit record levels recently (contributing to the feed cost rises mentioned above). For many farmers in this position, 2022 is shaping up to be a stellar year – the value of the unharvested wheat crop has risen by more than 50% since it went in the ground. That said, significant challenges loom for 2023. High input costs and taxation on 2022 profits will stretch working capital requirements.

These severe inflationary pressures are happening at a time when all farms in England will be facing cuts in BPS payments, which will reach 35% during 2023.

Without significant price increases to cover elevated production costs, many farms will struggle. In such times, it is especially crucial to demonstrate competent cost management, particularly for farm advisors which many farm businesses are depending on to steer them through the current crisis.

The Agricultural Budgeting and Costing Book contains all the farm and rural business information you need in one publication. It is concise, clear, and easy-to-use. The information is updated every six months, so you are always using the most relevant data, something which is especially vital during inflationary periods.

The contents include;

  • Fully updated gross margins for all farming sectors, crops, and livestock, including net margins for key enterprises.
  • Sensitivity analysis and discussion of market prospects.
  • The widest range of information on alternative enterprises, diversification, and non-farming income sources available in any UK publication.
  • Explanation of the support systems and grants across GB, including BPS rules and rural grants. An outline of post-Brexit farm policy.
  • Farming costs including forage, feed, fertiliser, and pesticides.
  • Overhead cost data covering machinery, labour, contracting, building costs, and rents.
  • An overview of taxation and the legislation affecting agriculture.
  • A vast array of general reference information for the farming sector.

For nearly 50 years, The Agricultural Budgeting and Costing Book has been providing industry leading farm management and costings information to agricultural advisors across the UK and is the leading publication of its kind in the industry. The 94th Edition, or an annual subscription (2 editions) can be ordered via The Andersons Centre website – https://theandersonscentre.co.uk/shop/

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Notes:

No. of Words: 619

Author: Michael Haverty

Date: 16th May 2022

This news release has been sent from The Andersons Centre, 3rd Floor, The Tower, Pera Office Park, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire LE13 0PB. For further information please contact Michael Haverty on +44 (0)7900 907 902.  

Andersons Business Matters

Andersons Business Matters is our new publication which is designed to complement Andersons annual Outlook publication. Each edition focuses in detail on a selection of topics at the farm-level. The current edition focuses on;

  • Arable profitability and long-term trends on our Loam Farm model
  • Beef costs of production
  • Depreciation
  • Is there an optimal dairy system?

To access our latest edition, please click here.

 

 

ANDERSONS NEWS RELEASE – WEBINARS 2021

ANDERSONS WEBINARS 2021

Brexit: It’s Just the Start

The farming industry breathed a collective sigh of relief when the UK and EU signed their 11th-hour trade agreement.  However, those in the agricultural sector who believe that trade issues have been put-to-bed for the foreseeable future are likely to be disappointed.  Now that the UK has left the EU, the industry will arguably have to keep a closer eye on trade policy, not least to ensure that the sector’s position is protected when deals are being done.  This is the message from Andersons the Farm Business Consultants.

Firstly, the UK/EU ‘Trade and Cooperation Agreement’ (TCA), even at 1,246 pages, is not the final word on trade with the European Union.  The next few months will see how the complex provisions of the deal in areas such as Rules of Origin, Customs and Checks impact on trade in practice.  Already problems have been seen, especially regarding Northern Ireland.  And this is when trade flows have been quieter than usual as a result of previous stockpiling.  The TCA does not cover services (around 80% of the UK economy), including the key sector of financial services.   There are also unresolved questions on data sharing, and some parts of the deal, such as fisheries, come up for review after five years.  Therefore, perhaps after a brief pause, there is likely to be continuous ongoing negotiations with the EU on these issues.  The danger for farming is that it might get drawn into these negotiations as ‘leverage’.

The TCA also includes Level-Playing-Field provisions to uphold existing standards in areas such as environmental standards and labour law.  Any significant undercutting by one side could lead to retaliatory tariffs by the other – with farm goods likely to be a key target for any such tariffs.  How the level-playing-field rules are going to work in practice is very unclear.  For example, if the UK were to authorise GM crops, or at least gene-edited crops, would the EU see this as a reduction in ‘environmental standards’.  The scope for arguments seems huge.

The second main area of concern is trade deals with other countries or trading blocks.  The TCA was largely about protecting what was already in place  –  i.e. the significant trade between the UK and the EU.  Therefore, the agreement largely preserves the status quo and has had little effect (so far) on markets.  Any new deals the UK signs with other countries will see a change in the trading environment – and an effect on prices.

Much of the focus in this area has been on the US and the potential clash of production standards with the famous chlorinated chicken and hormone beef.  A deal with the UK is unlikely to be top of Joe Biden’s to-do list in the short-term.  Deals with Australia and New Zealand are perhaps more likely in the short-term and, arguably, could have a bigger impact on our farm markets – especially in the livestock sectors.  Free trade agreements with these two nations are seen by the UK Government as a prelude to the UK joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).  Further down the line, the UK is almost certain to explore deals with other agricultural ‘powerhouses’ such as Mercosur, which includes Brazil, and Argentina.

The danger for farming in all of these potential deals is that the UK Government may be willing to trade access to our agricultural markets for gains for our exporters elsewhere in areas such as aerospace, financial services, medicines etc.  The UK farming industry needs to ensure it is not made a sacrificial lamb.

The final area concerns tariffs on food imports generally.  For those countries we do not have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with, the level of tariff protection offered by the new UK Global Tariff (UKGT) is very similar to that which we enjoyed in the EU.  However, the UKGT is only ‘temporary’ and could be easily changed.  If the UK economy enters a post-Covid recession, might the Government be tempted to move to a ‘cheap food’ policy and lower some of these tariffs?

In summary, trade matters will continue to be important for the farming sector for years to come.

Andersons is running two Webinars on the 11th February looking at trade matters in more detail along with farm profitability and future agricultural policy.  For more information, please go to https://theandersonscentre.co.uk/webinars/

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No of words 725
Author Richard King
Date 22nd January 2021

This news release has been sent from The Andersons Centre, Old Bell House, 2 Nottingham Street, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire LE13 1NW.  For further information please contact Richard King on 07977 191 427.  

Outlook 2021 – A Landmark Year Ahead

The coming year will see a step-change for UK agriculture. Farms will have to adjust quickly to a new business environment which is likely to be more testing. This is the overall message from Andersons Outlook 2021 which has recently been published.

The hope is that 2021 will see life return to the ‘old normal’ after the upheavals of Covid-19. However, the farming sector faces a further set of challenges. The end of the Transition Period marks the start of the real Brexit. The ‘friction’ in trade between ourselves and our largest trading partner will be much greater – leading to higher costs which may well be passed back down the supply chain. Maybe as early as next year the UK will start to conclude independent trade deals with other countries. The danger here is that access to our agricultural market is granted in return for concessions elsewhere. UK farmers could be faced with low-cost competition, possibly producing to different standards.

2021 will also see the first year of the truly ‘renationalised’ farm policy outside of the Common Agricultural Policy. Although each part of the UK is doing its own thing and progressing at different speeds, the overall direction of travel is clear. In the future, there will be less support ‘as of right’, and land managers will be expected to deliver something to society in return for the funds they receive.

Andersons’ consultants experience is that this should not necessarily be something to be feared. There are still great opportunities to improve financial performance in all sectors of our industry. Without the distorting effects of direct support, there can be a greater focus on the areas of activity on farm that actually make a profit. Over time a stronger, more resilient industry should result, able to meet many of the other challenges that lie ahead.

With Brexit and (hopefully) Covid-19 moving down the political agenda, the environment will move back up. Especially with the UK hosting the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in November 2021. The farming sector will be expected to play its part in meeting the country’s net zero aspirations. This will require a change in practices and systems. Whilst this will be process over many years, 2021 may be seen, in hindsight, as the year when concerted efforts to address climate change really began in earnest.

Covid itself will continue to present challenges to the farming sector. The UK is likely to suffer from an ‘economic long-Covid’ – the lasting financial effects of the massive spending that has been incurred to support the economy during the crisis. The Government will be looking to balance the books and this could mean tax increases. There may also be pressure on areas of spending deemed not to be a priority – for example farm support, despite earlier promises.

With such challenges in the year ahead, and longer term, farm businesses will need to be both resilient and adaptable. Andersons has been working ‘at the coal face’ with farmers and the allied industries for over 40 years assisting them to make the right decisions, whatever the business environment.

Outlook 2021 is sent to all Andersons’ clients and contacts. Additional copies can be obtained free of charge by calling 01664 503200. The publication is available to download from the Andersons Centre’s website and is accessible by clicking here.

Andersons will be running a series of webinars and seminars in the spring looking at the prospects for UK agriculture in greater depth. This includes two webinars taking place on 11th February which provide updates on profitability, trade and future farm policy. For more information,  please go to the respective weblinks below;

Impact of the Covid Crisis on Livestock Farming

The pandemic has illustrated that ‘Black Swan’ events do exist.  It highlights the importance of being prepared for events that have a small chance of occurring but a large effect when they do happen – they are more abundant than most people accept.  The progress of the disease in the UK has now slowed and thoughts are turning to how to loosen some of the lockdown rules in order that things can begin to return to ‘normal’ – especially getting the economy restarted.

The world has a lot to learn about how it has, and has not, coped over the last few months and continues to adapt now.  Some supply chains have demonstrated remarkable resilience and adaptability, others less so.  What would we do differently next time?  Early reports suggest congestion in Beijing now exceeds that of the same time last year.  Have we learnt much?  The UK food and farming industry needs to repair, mend and raise its resilience.  Farms, it transpires have greater resilience than most other businesses, but food supply chains are more fragile it seems.

Impact on the Dairy Sector

Covid-19 has seen some producers having to discard their milk as increased demand from the retail sector has not made up for volumes usually consumed in the food service sector.  But you cannot turn a dairy cow ‘off and on’ and production is expected to continue to rise as we head towards the spring peak.  According to the AHDB, GB average daily milk deliveries to processors for the week ending 11th April, were up 1.4% on the previous week’s average.  This is, however, 2.3% below the average deliveries for the same week in 2019, but remains in-line with the AHDB’s forecast for this year. Some farmers will be trying to dry cows off early, but this will be a small adjustment nationally.
These figures include an estimated 800,000-900,000 litres of milk which was not collected during the week ending 11th April and had to be thrown away by producers.  This volume is about 0.4% of the total milk delivered for the week.  Since then, according to the AHDB, there have been no further reports of milk not being collected.  However, in some cases, only the fat content has been utilised, with the skim reportedly ending up in anaerobic digesters.  As a result of the over-supply, producers have seen some processors introduce new pricing measures.  This has led to calls for a specific support scheme for the sector.
At the beginning of April, all Muller suppliers were asked to reduce their supply by 3% until the end of May.  It is unclear what action will be taken if a producer fails to cooperate.  Perhaps the most notable actions have been those of Medina and Freshways – both of which have a significant share of their business in the food service sector.  Suppliers to Medina will see their milk price cut by 5ppl as from the 1st May after the processor announced a further 3ppl drop, after having already said the price would fall by 2ppl.  This will see its standard litre down to 20.75ppl.  In addition, payments will also be deferred by 21 days.
Freshways has back-dated its price cut by 13 days and is also extending its payment terms.  Freshways has restricted its A pricing to 60% of a producer’s current A quota, with milk delivered in March being paid 50% at the end of April and 50% by 15th May.  On top of this, the processor is reported to have actually increased its prices to supply Nursing Homes, something which has not gone un-noticed by the national press or some of its customers in the food service, who are looking to distance themselves from the processor’s negative publicity.
Not all processors are cutting their prices though, some of the supermarket aligned contracts have seen rises. For example, Belton Farm (cheese), Barbers (cheese) and First Milk (cheese) have all announced they will retain their current price until at least June.  Before it announced the 3% supply reduction, Muller (see earlier) told suppliers they would receive a 1ppl rise from May 1st, this was rather surprising at the time and will probably be short-lived.
It is estimated around 550 farmers, predominantly those supplying Freshways and Medina are under serious financial pressure.  The RABDF has launched a survey and is asking all those affected by the Covid-19 milk crisis to submit an online daily account of their losses so that it can supply Defra with ‘accurate and credible supportive data’.  The survey can be accessed at www.rabdf.co.uk/survey. Further comments are provided below on what support is available and what industry is calling for.

Meat Sector Impacts

The beef sector has experienced price declines recently, primarily due to the loss of the food services trade.  In the UK, about one-third of beef product sales in monetary terms are to the food service sector.  Such sales consist of the highest value products (e.g. fillet steaks).  With the implosion of demand, this has a much more pronounced impact on carcase value, which some have estimated to have declined by around £200 per head (or 15-20%) at the processing level.  Increases in retail sales which have taken place are primarily for mince and burgers, which are of lower value, thus only partially compensating for steak sales losses.  At the farm level, price declines have remained relatively small with GB steer prices on 18th April (324 ppkg) approximately 4% lower than prices on 21st March (336 ppkg).  If the Covid crisis continues for a sustained period, further farmgate declines are likely.

The lamb trade has also experienced issues, although the Easter holiday and the recent commencement of Ramadan have mitigated the problem.  That said, major concerns remain due to the closure of the food services sector in continental Europe, most notably France.  As more UK lamb comes onto the market later in the year, any oversupply at that point will have a much more pronounced effect on prices.  If restaurants do open, they are unlikely to be operating at capacity, due to social distancing measures.  As most lamb is eaten outside of the home, this will present difficulties.

Similar trends have taken place in the pig meat sector with convenience products (e.g. bacon and sausages) seeing sales increase significantly but demand for roasting cuts has decreased markedly.  There are additional complexities at play more globally in pig meat.  Processing capacity in the US has been hit by coronavirus cases amongst workers in meat plants, meaning that production lines have shut down.  Whilst Europe has not witnessed processing disruption on the scale of the US, food services demand has lowered, meaning price declines have resulted.  Imports of pig products have slowed, meaning a relatively buoyant closed market for the UK producer in the short-term.  Some items remain scarce in the shops.

Much of what will happen in the pig meat sector will be governed by the recovery in the Chinese market which has been hit by both the Covid crisis and African Swine Fever (ASF).  China has started to re-open again after a lockdown in some regions, and some analysts have predicted that Chinese demand will be back to 90% of normal levels by the end of the year.  On the supply-side, it has had to deal with ASF which has almost halved its breeding sow herd and is only in the early stages of recovery.  Short-term, the deficit of pork in China should help European prices recover from Covid.  It could also provide some support in other protein categories but will not compensate for the losses in carcase value seen in beef, nor the potential oversupply in lamb as the UK production season progresses.

Support

In reaction to the Covid crisis, various forms of support have been instigated across Europe.  Some mechanisms have been aimed at the wider economy, whilst more recently, specific measures to support the farming sector have been announced by the EU-27.

Looking at the economy generally, whilst the UK has opted for a furlough system, this scheme is of limited use to the food sector as it necessitates workers being off work for that period.  This has created difficulties for processors who have to continue operations whilst also coping with price declines.  The wage subsidy systems in place elsewhere in countries such as the Netherlands, Ireland and New Zealand, arguably offer more support to sectors such as agri-food where turnover declines are projected, but production must continue.  In the Netherlands for example, if a 25% decrease in turnover is projected, the State will subsidise approximately 22.5% of wages for a 12-week period.

As regards the farming sector, the EU-27 recently announced a range of measures to support agricultural commodities, including the re-opening of Private Storage Aid (PSA) for several commodities including beef (25,000 tonnes) and lamb (36,000 tonnes).  Pig meat will not be supported by this scheme. For dairy this will see the opening of PSA for SMP, butter and all cheeses that are suitable for storage.  The volume allocations for each country have not been set yet.

PSA will allow the temporary withdrawal of products from the market for a minimum of 2 to 3 months, and a maximum period of 5 to 6 months.  It has been initiated to reduce supply and rebalance the market.  There are shortcomings though.  In beef, storing product means freezing it, thus value deterioration versus fresh.  Also, when the storage period ends, that product will need to be released onto the market thus increasing supply and lowering prices at that point.  The EU plans to formally agree the scheme by the end of April.  Previously, the EU also announced plans to offer increased flexibility to CAP and Rural Development funding, including larger BPS advances to farmers.

In the UK, there has not been any announcement of support specifically directed towards the agri-food sector.  Whilst many of the more generic support measures (e.g. Coronavirus Business Loan Interruption Scheme (CBILS)) will offer some assistance, there have been many industry calls for targeted support. The response from the Government so far has been to relax some elements of competition law to make it easier for processors (e.g. in dairying) to be able to come together and work out how to temporarily reduce production to create space in the market. For the dairy sector, the Government has asked the AHDB and Dairy UK to co-ordinate a proposal.  But the industry is claiming this is too late, particularly for those 550 dairy farmers who need urgent support now to help with their cashflow.  A letter has been sent to Defra calling for a targeted grant scheme similar to those being offered to the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.

Given the extent of the price declines and impact on turnover have affected many agricultural sectors, it is evident that more targeted support from Government is required.  Otherwise, many businesses will come under severe pressure in the weeks ahead, with many likely to cease trading.  If this happens, it will take the sector much longer to recover.

Footnote:

Image source: Imperial College London

Source: Imperial College London