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Kent rural economy sees profits dip £20m to £68.1m in 2013 from £88.6m after wet spring and late summer but land assets strong at £6bn

By Chris Price

Profits in the rural sector across Kent dipped by more than £20m last year following a wet spring and late summer.

The county’s bottom line dropped from £88.6m to £68.1m in 2013 according to figures published in Rural PLC Kent’s annual report.

Turnover fell to £514.7m from £541.8m in 2012, with the cost of sales rising slightly to £271.1m from £268.4m.

Fruit from the AC Goatham & Sons farms
Fruit from the AC Goatham & Sons farms

Yet Kent’s 300,000 hectares of land assets remain strong, valued at nearly £6bn, which would put it around the 60 mark if it were a member of the FTSE 100.

The figures were unveiled at East Malling Research during the AGM of Rural PLC Kent, a voluntary organisation set up by industry experts in the county to promote the rural economy.

It announced the launch of a new careers website on July 1, aimed as a hub for agricultural, retail, marketing and research and development businesses. This will be followed by a mobile app.

Rural PLC chairman Mike Bax said: “One of the main factors last year was weather conditions particularly long periods of cloudy skies and rain in spring.

Vines at Gusbourne vineyard near Appledore
Vines at Gusbourne vineyard near Appledore

“Our high-value horticultural crops like strawberries and rasberries need sunlight and we didn’t get it until June. It was a late year and when crops come late they all come at once which means prices are depressed.”

The group remains positive for 2014.

Mr Bax added: “Prospects are remarkably good in Kent this year.

“We had a frightful winter but a lot of rain at that time of year does not do you a lot of harm unless you are flooded and Kent’s flooding wasn’t as bad as other parts of the country.

Mike Bax
Mike Bax

“The net result of that with an early spring is that there should be good early crops and hopefully some decent prices.

“The prospects are for a better year but the big factor is always weather risk.”

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