Data from the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs reveals that the total income from farming in the UK for 2020 stood at £4.1 billion. That represents a fall of more than 15% when compared to the previous 12 months – a decline due mainly to adverse weather conditions and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
While those in the industry will hope to see signs of recovery in 2021, they will also have one eye on the bigger picture and the longer-term plans to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. That’s an initiative that has been put in place to tackle one of the major challenges facing farmers, but what are some of the issues at play and how do they affect the most common agricultural products?
The most common agricultural products
In terms of arable crops, wheat, barley and oats are the most common. It’s estimated that over 20 million tonnes of grain is produced every year in the UK, contributing to the manufacture of a number of foods. These include bread, cereals, cakes and even beer, whisky and vinegar and they’re typically harvested in July and August, although changing weather conditions can cause these patterns to shift in any given year.
As well as arable crops, the UK produces a large amount of cow’s milk, not to mention meat from cattle, chicken, pigs, sheep, turkeys and ducks.
Challenges facing the farming industry
There are a number of challenges facing the agricultural sector, which is why many choose to take out farming cover as a way to protect themselves and mitigate some of the risks.
- Climate change. Increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather conditions can play havoc with farmers’ plans and production. The likes of rising temperatures or unseasonable cold snaps, unexpected heavy rainfall or periods of drought can make it almost impossible for crops to be harvested at the optimal time, which means the output of the farmstead can be severely impacted.
- Shifting consumer habits. Farmers also have to contend with changes in dietary trends. With veganism on the rise, those in the agricultural industry need to adjust their production accordingly – for example, by reducing the amount of livestock they farm for meat and dairy products.
- Investing in technology. It shapes almost every aspect of our daily lives, and technological advances continue to be made in the farming industry. Faster, more efficient equipment helps to increase productivity and, if farm owners are not to be left behind by their rivals, they need to be able to spend on assets that are going to deliver a return on their investment.