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What does 2022 hold for the UK’s agriculture markets?

Forward planning is crucial for a successful farm business, says David Eudall, Economics and Analysis Director at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

We know from AHDB’s Farm Business Review service that a key action point for farmers is setting budgets and goals – not necessarily just financial goals. For instance, a goal of establishing a succession plan and acting on it in the next five years would help a farmer create a longer-term strategy for their business. ‘Where do you plan on being in five years’ time?’ is a holistic question about value and the answer yields a vision for a farming business.

Offering a vision and a clear plan to family members and staff is also a key element of progressing a farming business. If you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, you can then set targets and measure your progress against them. It is about having a map. Right now, the industry is fearful of change and needs help with navigation. 

One key element of navigation is knowing your wider market conditions. Recent events in Ukraine, which are affecting farmers and the markets they operate in, illustrate how important business planning is. To help farmers plan ahead and achieve their goals, the AHDB Agri Market Outlook provides a view of what the coming year holds for UK agriculture. 

Here are some key figures from the 2022 forecast for the UK economy and agriculture markets, which was made before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The AHDB Agri Market Outlook: headline statistics

The economy

  • GDP in Q4 2021 is 0.4% below its pre-pandemic level, as seen in Q4 2019.
  • The economy looks set to exceed pre-Covid levels in Q1 2022, but there will be permanent changes to the way we work, socialise, buy goods and travel.
  • Inflation is 5.5% for the 12 months to January 2022. This high rate (well above the government’s target of 2%) risks reducing real incomes as prices rise, fuelling wage demands as workers strive to keep pace with the cost of living. Further interest rate rises are expected in 2022 as the Bank of England takes steps to curb excess demand and dampen inflation.
UK agri markets:

Pork

  • A contraction in the breeding herd is expected, leading to a 2% fall in UK pig meat production, weighted towards the second half of 2022.
  • Export markets remain challenging, with Chinese demand slowing and a weak EU market. However, trade may increase again year on year as UK exporters become used to new trading conditions with the EU.
  • UK demand is expected to weaken slightly, although falling production, recovering food-service demand and increased exports could all support import levels, particularly in the second half of 2022.

Beef 

  • Beef production is forecast to grow by 1% in 2022, as more prime cattle become available.
  • Beef imports are forecast to grow by 1%, as food-service demand increases, but overall consumption is forecast to fall by 1%, as easing retail demand offsets the rising food-service demand.
  • Exports of beef are forecast to increase by over 10%, helped by higher domestic production and increased import demand on the continent.

Dairy

  • GB milk production is forecast to end the 2021/22 season down on the year, with only modest growth in 2022, as high input costs impact yields.
  • Input costs are likely to remain high for at least the first part of 2022.
  • The domestic demand balance between retail and food service is expected to gradually shift in the direction of pre-pandemic levels, though Omicron will delay this transition to later in the year.
  • Tight global milk supplies are expected to keep international markets supported.
  • UK imports will likely exceed 2021 levels as food-service demand returns.
  • Overall, wholesale and farmgate prices are likely to remain supported through the first part of 2022.

Lamb

  • There will be an increase in the number of available lambs to slaughter as we shift away from a pre-Brexit working environment.
  • Lamb imports are predicted to fall by 6% while exports could grow by 5%. Imports are forecast to remain lower as New Zealand continues to pivot towards China, and shipping costs remain high.
  • Despite most coronavirus restrictions being eased across the UK, and Easter demand being expected to improve, overall demand for lamb is expected to fall 3%, with environmental concerns and price pressures among the factors affecting consumer behaviour. 

Cereals 

  • With both the global and domestic balance remaining tight until the northern hemisphere harvest, prices will remain supported over the coming months.
  • Data from 2022/23 shows increased wheat area for the UK and major northern hemisphere global exporters. This could increase supply to the market, putting downward pressure on prices.
  • Animal feed demand looks to be supported in the short term, given the current backlogs of livestock on farm. This could ease later in the year if herd rationalisation occurs.
  • UK bioethanol demand should increase as the UK’s second biofuel plant comes fully online, most likely in the spring.

Oilseeds

  • Despite an increase in domestic rapeseed area for the 2022 harvest, it is still the second lowest area the UK has recorded this century.
  • The UK will remain a net importer of rapeseed for the 2022/23 marketing year.
  • While demand for crushed seeds has eased slightly due to strong prices, margins remain firm.

This article was produced by our partner specialists at AHDB. For more information on the topics covered here, please visit AHDB’s Agri Market Outlook

This material is published by NatWest Group plc (“NatWest Group”), for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice. Recipients should make their own independent evaluation of this information and no action should be taken, solely relying on it. This material should not be reproduced or disclosed without our consent. It is not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction in which this would be prohibited. Whilst this information is believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by NatWest Group and NatWest Group makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) of any kind, as regards the accuracy or completeness of this information, nor does it accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage arising in any way from any use made of or reliance placed on, this information. Unless otherwise stated, any views, forecasts, or estimates are solely those of the NatWest Group Economics Department, as of this date and are subject to change without notice.

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