Profits up for the county’s tech-savvy farming sector

    Lynne's Organic Farm

    AGRICULTURE in Kent had a mixed year in 2016 after declining turnovers were offset by improving profits.

    Supermarkets determined to remain competitive and avoid passing on inflation to consumers squeezed their suppliers, resulting in a six per cent fall in revenue across the county to  £476 million last year.

    This came despite a 23 per cent boost to EU subsidies to about £44.4 million following the fall in the value of sterling.

    Director Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, deputy chief executive and principal of Hadlow Group, said: “Prices are being squeezed. The rate of return suppliers have had have been less positive over the last year than the year before.

    “Supermarkets have been applying a price squeeze on their suppliers over the last 12 months.”

    However, the rural sector nearly doubled pre-tax profits to £55.1 million compared to 2016 as the industry managed to reduce its own costs through efficiencies and reduced fertiliser prices.

    Technology, in the form of robotic pickers and packers, has also greatly reduced overheads.

    Rural plc Kent chairman Mike Bax said: “There is improving margins through the mechanisation of the sector and the reduction in the labour workforce. Regarding their core work, they will only improve profitability through consolidation.”

    Despite profits rebounding strongly, they are still considerably less than the £142.3 million surplus of 2013.