Scottish farmers should focus on improving grassland, says QMS
A postal survey completed in January has proved that the top priority for beef and sheep farmers this year should be improving grassland, according to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).
A total of 640 Scottish businesses took part in the survey, which revealed an easing in confidence levels, especially among sheep producers.
QMS head of economics services Stuart Ashworth said: "The results of the survey clearly show how confidence among livestock farmers ebbs and flows. The bottom line is that producers appear to be less confident than they have been for some time, though their confidence levels remain above those of 2007/2008."
Key concerns unveiled in the survey included fears about the direction of travel of future agricultural policy, along with input costs, animal health, import competition, consumer confidence, access to export markets and access to capital.
The survey revealed that 50% of sheep producers are less confident than they were 12 months ago, with 7% more confident and 43% remaining unchanged.
Ashworth claimed depressed lamb prices towards the end of last year contributed to these replies.
"Likewise, confidence among suckler herd operators has also ebbed in the 12 months to January 2013 with 18% of respondents reporting they are less confident than a year ago," he added.
The figures showed a correlation between stock levels and confidence, as 13% of sheep producers in total were aiming to reduce their flock size, which increased to 21% for the less-confident producers.
Suckler beef producers showed a more positive outlook, with 21% aiming to increase herd size, and this number rose to more than 50% for the more confident.
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Policy priorities for the UK food, drink and farming industry