In a survey conducted by NFU Mutual, rising machinery prices are rivalling bad weather and breakdowns when it comes to the main concerns keeping agri-contractors awake at night.
From 262 respondents, 36.3% said that the fear of breakdowns and bad weather disrupting operations were the main worries. This was followed closely by tightening margins and rising prices for new and used machinery, which 28.6% said was their biggest worry.
The third biggest concern was difficulties employing trained workers, to which 21.4% responded, while 13.7% said that changes to agricultural subsidies were their main worry.
Charlie Yorke, agriculture and technology specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Unsurprisingly weather and breakdowns continue to be the biggest challenge. However, the cost and availability of machinery is a growing challenge for the industry. With demand high, and availability low, we recommend that contractors establish accurate values for their machinery and make sure they are fully covered should the worst happen.
“Despite modern technology, the weather still has the power to disrupt harvesting and other farming activities – and contractors face huge challenges getting all their clients’ work done when Britain’s unpredictable weather makes fieldwork impossible. Machinery breakdowns are always a risk even in the best-maintained machinery fleets.
“We know that employing skilled workers and drivers in the current climate is becoming a challenge in many parts of the country, so it’s no surprise that this concern is also keeping contractors awake at night.
“The impact of the changes to UK farm support came in at number four in our survey. While changes in subsidies are a challenge, contracting will play an increasingly important part in the future of agriculture as farmers streamline their businesses and bring in outside skills for a range of farming tasks.”
A separate survey conducted by the NFU Mutual asked what farmers rated highest when selected contractors. From the 327 responses, 46.8% said that trust and relationships were the top priority. This was followed by ensuring the job was done safely (20.8%), specialist expertise (16.5%) and value for money (15.9%).
Mr Yorke added: “It’s important contractors put effort into developing good working relationships and ensure they have appropriate insurance for the work they’re doing so their clients have full trust and confidence.”