Major boost for south east rural economy, CLA / Smiths Gore survey shows

04 August 2014

Sharp rises in rural employment, investment and profitability in the south east are expected over the next year as rural firms benefit from a more positive UK economy, according to the results of a new survey by the CLA and Smiths Gore.

The latest CLA / Smiths Gore Rural Economy Index (REI July 2014) shows that a net balance of +47 percent of rural firms in the south east expect to increase investment in their business in the next 12 months.

Rural business optimism is also up in the region with a net balance of +47 percent of respondents having higher confidence for the next year, as the farming sector continues to recover.

The REI provides insight into the business environment of the rural economy by surveying a sample of agricultural and non-agricultural rural firms from all regions in England and Wales.The REI uses net balances – the proportion of businesses reporting a rise minus those reporting a fall – to show the direction and scale of change in key indicators. 

Nationally, farming businesses are at their most optimistic since the survey started in 2012, and seven of the REI’s eight key indicators showed positive results for both farming and non-agricultural firms.

There is further positivity in the south east with a net balance up +41 percent for firms anticipating higher profitability over the next 12 months, rather than expecting the same or lower profitability than the past year. The south east result is well above the national indicator of +14 percent.

Projected levels of employment in the south east are also very positive, with expansion anticipated by a net balance of +29 percent of respondents.

CLA Director South East Robin Edwards said: “Investment is vital if the south east rural economy is to continue to grow and recover. It is a major boost for the region that the survey shows investment, profitability and employment are all expected to rise in both the farming sector and non-farming businesses.”

Dr Jason Beedell, head of research at Smiths Gore said:  “Farming businesses continue to recover from a challenging 2012, and the balance now expect sales and profits to be higher in the next year. 

“Just under 40 percent of the non-agricultural rural businesses reported higher sales over the past six months and 58 percent expect sales growth next year - fantastic news for the rural economy as a whole.”