Agriculture: Economic sentiment suffers yet another setback

Agricultural Business Barometer still above last year’s level

In December 2017, the economic sentiment among German farmers has suffered yet another setback. According to the latest data of the Agricultural Business Barometer of the German Farmers’ Association (DBV), this is due increasingly pessimistic expectations for the future. However, the assessment of the current economic situation has remained virtually unchanged since mid 2017. The willingness of German farmers to invest has also increased again. Nevertheless, the investment volume planned for the upcoming months is clearly below the level of the years before the price crisis of 2015/16.

Currently, the index of the Agricultural Business Barometer has fallen from 26.6 points in September 2017 to 23.2 points. The current index value is thus 2.2 points higher than in December 2016, but still well below the relatively high index values from 2011 to 2014. During that time, the index value peaked at 37.2 points. The index value summarises the assessment of the current economic development and expectations of future economic development.

32 per cent of farmers plan to invest within the next six months, compared to 29 per cent a year ago. The volume of investments planned for the next six months amounts to EUR 4.0 billion, which is EUR 0.4 billion more than a year ago. However, the relatively high level of investments in 2013 and 2014 will not be reached. At that time, the volume of planned investments amounted to a good EUR 6 billion. From the DBV’s point of view, investing in efficient agriculture also secures many jobs in respective upstream and downstream sectors of the economy.

On a scale from 1 (best) to 5 (worst), the mean of the farms rate the future economic development at 3.14 on average. At an average of 2.86, the assessment of the current economic situation is significantly better. Compared to September, on average, the assessment of the current economic situation remains virtually unchanged for all farms. However, there are differences between the types of farms. While particularly processing plants and agricultural holdings specialising in arable farming see their economic situation worsening, dairy farms are continuing to recover. On average, the expectations for the future of all agricultural holdings have been significantly lower in December than in September. This is largely due to a much more pessimistic assessment of the situation by farms producing forage.

For agricultural holdings, price developments are by far the most important factor influencing the assessment of their economic situation. In particular, lower producer prices for pigs and higher input prices for fertilisers, fuel, and energy are currently having a negative impact on the economic climate. Additionally, lease prices continue to have a particularly taxing effect on the situation. Nevertheless, cattle prices as well as particularly capital-market interest rates and leasing conditions continue to be viewed relatively positively.

The business and investment barometer for the German agricultural industry is calculated  precisely and reliably in a representative survey every quarter on behalf of the German Farmers’ Federation DBV, the VDMA Agricultural Machinery Association, and the Landwirtschaftliche Rentenbank. For the current circuit in December 2017, the market research institute Produkt + Markt successfully interviewed about 2,100 farmers and agricultural contractors all over Germany.

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