Farming income breaks £1billion barrier in East of England


- Credit: Archant

Wheat production has overtaken poultry as the largest source of agricultural income in the East of England, according to the latest government statistics.

The Agriculture in the English Regions report from Defra estimates that the region broke the £1bn barrier for total income from farming last year – almost a quarter of the national total for England, which rose by 1.2pc to £4.2bn.

Wheat production in the east brought in £669m, replacing poultry meat production as the greatest contributor to the total value of farm outputs.

Poultry contributed £641m and the production of pig meat contributed £317m, which replaces fresh fruit and vegetables as the third greatest contributor. Fresh vegetables contributed £291m and sugar beet £210m.

Industry experts said the £1bn breakthrough was a significant endorsement of the region’s pivotal importance for the nation’s food production – but the swing from poultry to wheat was more likely to be a temporary shift, resulting from natural fluctuations in yield, weather and markets.

Andrew Fundell, agri-business consultant and partner at Brown and Co, said: “These statistics are great for the region, and output exceeding £1bn proves how important agriculture is for the East of England.

“The increase in wheat output can be explained by a combination of factors – partially by the increase in wheat plantings in the autumn of 2013 compared with the previous year; there was a 19pc increase in wheat area compared to the 2013 harvest.

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“Secondly, the better yields. In general the crops were established in better conditions than in the previous year. Typically wheat yields were up 20 to 25pc compared to an average wheat year.

“The reduction in income from poultry and pigs can largely be attributed to the pressure in pricing that the sector was facing as a result of the reduction in feed prices. This said, we are still experiencing a strong demand from integrators and processors for more livestock accommodation and we are confident that the pig and poultry sector will continue to form an essential part of agriculture in the East of England.”