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Farmers' wealth has grown since 1986, says study

Professor Donald MacRae of Lloyds TSB has compared the balance sheet for Scottish agriculture as at 1986 with the balance sheet of 2011 and concluded farmers have become much wealthier.

According to the professor's figures, in 1986 Scottish farmers had an estimated net worth of around £5.8 billion. Total assets of almost £7bn were dominated by land valued at £4.8bn, representing 68% of total assets. Short-term finance in the shape of annual bank overdraft facilities dominated liabilities representing 66% of the total.

Back in 1986 bank overdraft facilities was estimated at a total of £795m, compared to total liabilities of £1205m. These liabilities of £1205m represented 17% of total assets which, by most standards of the day, was considered safe.

Fast-forward to 2011 and the professor's figures reveal that total assets had grown to £38.4bn, of which land and buildings had increased as a percentage to 88% in 2011 compared to 66% in 1986.

The total liabilities of the Scottish agricultural industry in 2011 at £2.4bn represent only 6% of total assets compared to 17% in 1986.

Comparing the industry's balance sheet in 1986 and 2011 reveals the industry has, in aggregate, become more financially secure, based on an analysis of balance-sheet ratios.

The main reason for the industry's increased wealth is the rise in the value of land, buildings and breeding livestock. Liabilities have also changed, with the industry restructuring its borrowings over the period with a substantial increase in long-term facilities as opposed to short-term.

According to Mr MacRae: "This is a very welcome trend and reduces the dependence of the industry on short-term finance."

"The agricultural industry in Scotland has reduced its indebtedness, increased its net worth and become more financially secure over the last 25 years.

"Critics of the Common Agricultural Policy will point to the continuing high levels of support payments to the Scottish agricultural industry over this quarter of a century and suggest the rise in the value of farmland is the end result of years of agricultural support payments."

Market round-up

Wallets Marts sold 1751 prime lambs in Castle Douglas on Tuesday to a top of £80 per head and 184.2p per kg to average 147.3p.

There were also 628 cast sheep forward that sold to £100 for a Texel ram and averaged £39.60 overall.

Messrs Craig Wilson Ltd sold 1289 prime lambs in Newton Stewart yesterday to a top of £81.50 and 182.9p to average 145.1p.

The 299 cast sheep forward saw ewes sell to £94 for a pen of Suffolks and £47 for Blackfaces.

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