Tough agriculture: Small producers to disappear?

By Nicola Cottam

- Last updated on GMT

While 76% of farmers are happy with the state of business, 45% think small farmers will disappear by 2019
While 76% of farmers are happy with the state of business, 45% think small farmers will disappear by 2019

Related tags Farmers Agriculture

Farmers globally believe small producers will ‘disappear’ from the agricultural landscape over the next five years, while those remaining will have to contend with tougher regulations and global water shortages, findings suggest.

Findings were published in the Farm Perspectives Study 2014, ​commissioned by agricultural chemical supplier, BASF.

Approximately 2,100 farmers and 7,000 consumers were canvassed in Brazil, China, France Germany, India, Spain and the US to gauge their perceptions on a range of issues relating to food production as well as help raise awareness about the realities of farming.

Key findings revealed that while approximately 76% of farmers were satisfied with the current state of their profession (compared to 62% in the 2011 survey), 45% believed ‘small farmers will disappear’​ by 2019 due to increasing consumer expectations, globalized markets and scarcity of resources.

Red tape worries

Regulations were highlighted as a concern among farmers with 49% agreeing there are too many governing industry and over a quarter predicted an increase in red tape by 2019.

“The regulatory situation in the agricultural sector puts pressure on farmers: globally, farmers agree that there are currently ​‘too many regulations within the agricultural sector’,” said BASF representative, Friederike Wurth.

“In European countries, farmers feel under immense pressure as a result of increasing agricultural regulations. In Asia, the perception is the opposite: farmers feel that the sector lacks sufficient legal regulation,” ​he told Milling & Grains.


Disparity in knowledge

Both farmers and consumers ‘care’ ​about sustainability in agriculture (78% and 81% respectively), according to the report, but there was some disparity in the level of understanding about what sustainability actually means.

“Growers and consumers do not understand sustainability in the same way and that makes it quite challenging for farmers to fulfil the requirements from society,” ​said Wurth.

Consumers defined sustainability in relation to ‘environmentally friendly’ ​(22%) farming practises or the ‘ability to produce sufficient food to feed the population’​ (18%), while farmers highlighted soil protection, land use, water use and biodiversity protection, and generally viewed themselves as ‘stewards of the land’​.

Another noteworthy finding related to pesticides, where consumers’ were concerned about its use in farming, whereas it was less of an issue for farmers who believe they ‘use pesticides responsibly’​.

Promoting open dialog

BASF said the disparity in knowledge and attitude of consumers and farmers about the fundamental aspects of agriculture needed to be addressed to ‘facilitate modern agriculture’​.

“Farmers have an essential role in our lives and for our well-being. Communication between farmers and society is important. Therefore this exchange must be improved and all relevant parties (politics, education, industry, etc) should play their part,” ​Wurth said.

“The business, political, legal and regulatory context in which farmers operate is increasingly determined by consumer opinion and influence​. We want to highlight the key success factors in sustainable farming as well as the present challenges…This study will help to draw meaningful conclusions about what farmers will need in the future so that they can farm sustainably and in a way that is accepted by consumers,” ​he said.

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