New approaches needed to boost productivity in Scottish agriculture

Scottish agriculture may need to adopt some “radical” approaches to maintain productivity growth and enhance its resilience.

This is according to a new report by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), with the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbating the significant external pressures the industry is facing in the build-up to Brexit.

Reflecting the amount of resource used within the industry, productivity growth is a key pillar of resilience and it must be achieved alongside wider Scottish Government goals such as meeting Greenhouse Gas emission targets.

Commissioned by the Scottish Government, Boosting Productivity Growth in Scottish Agriculture identifies a broad range of interventions that could be explored to support growth in productivity for Scottish agriculture, which between 2000 and 2015 experienced an annual average growth rate of 1.5 per cent. This was above the UK average of 1 per cent, but behind the likes of France (2.4 per cent) and Denmark (2 per cent).

The interventions proposed in the report range from “radical” approaches around rethinking the purpose and targeting of support funding, to creating a learner fund for each farmer to identify their own training needs, and upscaling the current monitor and demonstration farm network.

Greater integration and support for commercial engagement between policy and industry is another approach considered.

Project lead Andrew Barnes, a professor of rural resource economics, said: “I have been studying Scottish rural productivity for over 20 years and never have I seen such pressure from the potential shocks that the current external factors may have on the structure and sustainability of the industry.

“This report sets out some blue sky thinking towards what could work in Scotland and, while some a quite radical, I would argue now is the time to follow through on how we support this and the next farming generation going forward.

“At one point, a number of things once considered radical are now very much mainstream, including using renewables, the smoking ban and electronic sheep tagging. Today’s radical is tomorrow’s norm.”

Supported by SEFARI, the work was funded through the Scottish Government’s 2016-2021 Strategic Research Programme – Underpinning Policy Advice.

The report can be found here.

Last year, a report by BIGGAR Economics showed how Scotland’s economy could benefit from an addition £4.5 billion GVA per year if Scotland were to put in place systems to match countries such as New Zealand, the Netherlands and Norway, with the establishment of SRUC as an enterprise university for the rural sector as a core component.

Posted by SRUC on 23/04/2020

Tags: Rural Business, Economy, Policy
Categories: Natural Economy