Agri-Food Industry Told: Evolve or Die

The agri-food industry must “evolve and adapt” to survive, Danske Bank has warned.

It said farmers and agribusinesses must think about how they do business and how they can adapt to ever-changing consumer behaviours in order to thrive and grow.

Results of a survey of farmers and agribusinesses gathered at agriculture shows this year were revealed at the bank’s agri-breakfast held at Ravenhill Stadium in Belfast.

More than a third of respondents said they used online banking for the management of their business accounts – but more than half said they would never consider such a step.

Half said they did not use social media at all. Only 16.4 per cent said they used it for both business and personal use.

Danske Bank’s head of small business Katherine James said: “The explosion of social media and online developments has changed the way we do business and the way we behave as consumers and, ultimately, the businesses which will thrive and grow will be the ones which keep pace with this change and adapt to new market places.”

The Danske Bank survey also showed that, when respondents were asked what they felt was the greatest challenge facing the local agriculture industry, nearly half (46.2 per cent) cited rising input costs, followed by super-market power (13.5 per cent) and lack of working capital (10.5 per cent).

Despite these challenges, half of respondents said they would encourage a young person to go in to farming as a career, with only 26 per cent saying that they would not en-courage this.

When discussing succession meanwhile, half of those surveyed felt that succession in their business was likely or definitely assured, with a third saying that succession was not assured and the remainder saying that they were unsure.

Danske Bank’s head of agricultural relations John Henning said: “Agri-food is one of the few sectors to have performed well since the economic downturn but local farmers are competing in a global industry and external factors such as currency fluctuations and commodity prices impact heavily on local producers.

“Input costs will undoubtedly continue to pose challenges to the industry in the short-term but overall I am confident that the sector will continue to perform well.

“The resilience of the sector in the coming months and years will continue to play an important part in our economy and it is encouraging to note that, despite its challenges, farming is still very much considered to be a viable career for young people.”

Looking forward to other future growth opportunities, nearly a third of respondents (30.7 per cent) said they would consider diversifying their business. A quarter were considering purchasing additional land (24.5 per cent) and 13.8 per cent were considering increasing their stock.