Kerstin Hau, Project Manager DLG Competence Center Agriculture
Agriculture is facing great challenges and is in a constant state of change. The focus is on the agricultural entrepreneurs and representatives of the sector, who take on the issues of the future in order to develop and implement targeted solutions. To this end, we as the DLG want to support all players in the sector and assist them with competence center, trade fairs and testing. However, requirements and challenges are sometimes very short-lived and must be put to the test again and again in order to always keep an eye on the latest challenges.
The evaluation of the annual Agrifuture Insights studies by the DLG helps us to do this. The aim of the study is to get an up-to-date picture of the mood regarding farm developments, innovation trends and external influencing factors in order to adjust the focus in our daily work and to identify adjustments in the programme for the coming months.
A total of 4,183 people took part in the current survey in winter 2022/23, around 1,500 of them from abroad.
The assessment of the current business situation in winter 2022/23 is strongly influenced by the war in Ukraine and politicians' demand for the ecological transformation of agriculture.
Looking at the current business situation of the different production sectors (Figure 1), the arable farming and dairy farming sectors indicated a good to medium business situation. The pig farms tended to vote in the poor range. It is noticeable that, in contrast to the previous year, there is no clearly negative assessment.
This could be related to the higher producer prices at the time of the survey compared to the time of the previous year.
Livestock farming also faces immense challenges in production (especially costs for energy and feed) and marketing (market shifts due to the pandemic and African swine fever). The number of pigs kept has fallen to a minimum. In total, the survey reflects the tendency towards a more negative mood among finishing farms compared to other farm sectors, also in view of the current political developments. Inflation is making itself felt across Europe. The cost of interest on debt and leasing has risen significantly. Liquidity, debt servicing capacity and stability are nevertheless assessed as good to medium by all production directions, whereby pig farmers also rate somewhat more negatively here.
The pig farmers' view of profitability is clearly more negative. Here the price increases for energy and feed for finishing have an effect.
Proof of sustainability for financing is an important topic that is currently occupying the industry and is being worked on intensively.
A varied picture emerges with regard to the propensity to invest in agriculture (Figure 2). The willingness to invest among conventionally managed arable farms in Germany is proportionately lower, as the farms have invested a great amount in recent years. Organic farms want to invest both in Germany and internationally; the aim here is to achieve an increase in efficiency. In general, it can be observed that the willingness to invest shows a higher preference internationally than in Germany. In particular, farmers with dairy cattle show a high need for investment in order to be prepared for the challenges of increased efficiency and ecological transformation. Dairy farmers in Germany were able to achieve high milk prices last year and are using this to invest further in animal welfare, among other things.
Pig farming in Europe is partly confronted with high energy and feed prices, a spread of African swine fever, as well as high inflation and increased interest rates. The results of the survey show a reduced willingness to invest on the part of the participating European pig farmers compared to the previous year (67 % previous year), although this can only be considered a tendency due to low feedback.
The trends in crop production, dairy farming and pig farming are of particular interest to all areas of the DLG. What is interesting in the analyses is that some of the answers in the groups of practical agriculture, consulting, research and industry differ from each other.
In the area of technical innovations, the arable farmers surveyed (chart 3) rate the area of energy-efficient and soil-conserving track and tyre systems as one of the most important innovations, as they did last year. With regard to interoperability and compatibility between agricultural machinery, sensor technology and data services, the study results show that it takes some time for the findings from science to reach practice. Many solutions only work with each other to a limited extent and there are (still) problems with the merging and processing of data.
In dairy farming, trends in automation were listed with high importance. Automatic milking systems, automatic feed presentation systems and innovative herd management programmes are in the focus as innovations in the area of work completion (compare graphic 4). When looking at international regions, other moods could build up here.
In pig farming, the focus of the market participants is on the improvement of animal health and husbandry systems (compare graphic 5). Particularly the topics of animal welfare and nutrient-adapted feeding are attributed a high degree of importance. A separate survey of international markets in comparison to each other could well result in different constellations in the future.