Is Germany performing better than us?
Before we visited, our perception was that large former East German arable farms were achieving consistently good arable crops, particularly oilseed rape.
We wanted to learn how if this was the case. We also wanted to understand their business models and how competitive we would be against them in a post Brexit environment.
So we took a group of farmers from the South West and South East AHDB Monitor Farms to visit five farms near Berlin to find out more.
We learnt from the trip that climate and soil had a greater impact on crop performance than anything. Poorer soils and rainfall patterns meant that they were achieving nothing like UK averages. They mitigated this by managing their inputs accordingly and in particular the use of manures from integrated livestock enterprises. Where the German farms did appear to have a very competitive advantage at the moment was through the subsidy system where subsidy payments are nearly 3 times land rental values.
Good labour is a challenge for the German farms, as it often is for farms here. (Read more about how the potential reduction in migrant labour post-Brexit may catalyse structural change in the agricultural and horticultural sectors)
However, there was a very strong apprenticeship scheme for home-grown talent, which appeared to be working well for developing key staff.
All in all, though, our similarities were greater than our differences, as was the case when another group of UK farmers visited France. We shouldn’t be afraid of competing on a level agricultural playing field!