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Issue:- 03 January 2013

Confidence in non-agricultural rural businesses on the up, but farmers suffer

BUSINESS confidence in the non-farming rural sector is growing, proving the countryside is starting to emerge from the recession, says the CLA in the North. The results of the latest CLA/Smiths Gore Rural Economy Index (REI) show that optimism for non-agricultural rural businesses is up with sales, profits, investment and employment expected to be higher in 2013. CLA North Regional Director Dorothy Fairburn said:- "The outlook from the latest REI is positive for non-agricultural businesses. However, 55% of rural businesses that use lending report that borrowing rates have worsened, which of course could slow their economic recovery. In contrast, confidence and sales in the agricultural sector are significantly down on the start of this year due to adverse weather conditions."

Rupert Clark of Smiths Gore said:- "There has been a shift in the market with a fall in sales and profitability for many farming businesses because dreadful weather during 2012 affected the harvest and caused difficulties for next year's crops. If the weather in 2013 improves, we expect to see an increase in agricultural confidence as the underlying market fundamentals, of price and demand, are strong."

Looking at rural businesses excluding agriculture in Quarter 3, 45% reported higher sales over the past 6 months; up from 31% in the previous quarter; 56% reported higher business optimism for the next 12 months; up from just 20% in the previous quarter, and 48% predicted higher profitability over the next 12 months; that is up from 26% in the previous quarter.

Despite the rural economy showing signs of recovery, the impact of this year's bad weather on agriculture was plain to see in the figures from Quarter 3, with 47% of agricultural business predicting a drop in profitability over the next 12 months; up from 28% in the previous quarter; 21% reported lower sales over the past 6 months; again that is up from 12% in the previous quarter; and 31% expected to make a lower investment in their business over the next 12 months; up from 20% in the previous quarter.

Tighten up security, warns CLA in bid to thwart farm thefts

THE CLA in the North is warning farmers and rural landowners to review their security arrangements in a bid to reduce thefts of equipment and vehicles from farms in the region.  According to CLA North Regional Director Dorothy Fairburn, a combination of dark nights and economic uncertainty is a recipe for an increase in rural crime.

She said:- "At this time of year, with its short days and long nights, there is always an increase in countryside crime. With the added catalysts of a fragile economy and belt-tightening measures for many families this year, we are already starting to see a swell of rural criminal offences such as theft and fly-tipping. Rural areas can provide rich and easy pickings. Crime in rural areas takes many forms and is made easier for the perpetrator by the relative isolation of homes and businesses, a maze of county lanes unmonitored by CCTV, lack of street lighting, miles of legal public access close to properties and low visible police presence."

The CLA is advising farmers and landowners to take simple steps to protect themselves and their property such as not leaving tools lying around, ensuring keys are removed from vehicles and that sheds and other outbuildings are properly secured. Rural residents off the mains gas supply grid, who rely on heating oil are also being urged to protect their supplies by install locks on tank filler/vent caps and checking tank levels on a regular basis to ensure fuel is not being siphoned off.

Miss Fairburn added:- "We are urging our members to have a look around their premises with a thief's eye, to identify vulnerable spots and areas in permanent darkness. Anyone who needs further help should contact the crime prevention officer at their local police station or talk to a specialist security company. And last but by no means least - if you see a crime, report it."

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