Sur­vey finds farm­ers faced with dilemma

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

How to suc­cess­fully pass the farm along to the next gen­er­a­tion with­out cre­at­ing a ‘‘hell of a night­mare’’ is one of the most press­ing long-term is­sues faced by farm­ers, ac­cord­ing to New Zealand’s most in-depth busi­ness sur­vey.

‘‘Sim­ply hand­ing over the farm to a son or daugh­ter and re­tir­ing from the busi­ness is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly prob­lem­atic for many farm­ers,’’ said Gra­ham Tur­ley, man­ag­ing direc­tor of ANZ Com­mer­cial and Agri.

‘‘Today, like all New Zealan­ders, farm­ers are liv­ing longer so they want to con­tinue get­ting an in­come from the busi­ness. Farms are also in­cred­i­bly valu­able as­sets and se­lect­ing an off­spring to take over can cre­ate huge rifts in fam­i­lies.’’

ANZ has re­leased the Agri In­sights from the Pri­vately-Owned Busi­ness Barom­e­ter, New Zealand’s most com­pre­hen­sive study of pri­vately owned busi­nesses.

The sur­vey pro­vides crit­i­cal in­sights into a key sec­tor of the New Zealand econ­omy.

Now in its sixth year, it ques­tioned 4870 busi­ness own­ers from dif­fer­ent parts of the econ­omy about the is­sues af­fect­ing them and their views on the chal­lenges ahead.

For the first time in its six years, the barom­e­ter in­cluded a sec­tion ded­i­cated to agribusi­ness.

About 750 farm­ers and agribusi­ness own­ers con­tributed to the sur­vey.

The barom­e­ter shows that is­sues of growth, plan­ning, peo­ple, and change were tightly in­ter­wo­ven in the agri sec­tor.

Farm­ers spoke of the chal­lenges of man­ag­ing im­me­di­ate is­sues, such as weather, com­mod­ity prices and ex­change rates, while also ad­dress­ing long-term man­age­ment and own­er­ship is­sues.

‘‘One of the main con­cerns was suc­ces­sion – how to keep the farm in fam­ily hands but in a way that is fair and en­sures the fu­ture vi­a­bil­ity of the busi­ness,’’ Mr Tur­ley said.

‘‘The sto­ries of con­tested wills and fam­ily es­trange­ments are all too com­mon in the ru­ral in­dus­try.’’

In some cases farm­ers did not want their chil­dren to feel obliged to take over the farm and were hav­ing to bal­ance their de­sire to keep the farm in the fam­ily while al­low­ing their off­spring to fol­low their own path.

‘‘What we’re see­ing is farm­ers ex­plor­ing new mod­els of suc­ces­sion that en­sure the busi­ness stays strong and all in­volved mem­bers of the fam­ily, in­clud­ing them­selves, de­rive a long-term ben­e­fit from it and have a level of in­volve­ment they are com­fort­able with.’’

Fam­ily farms that have made the tran­si­tion to longterm sus­tain­able busi­ness are gen­er­ally high­per­form­ing busi­nesses that are dis­ci­plined with plan­ning and willing to en­gage all stake­hold­ers in hon­est dis­cus­sions about the fu­ture.

‘‘Th­ese dis­cus­sions have to tackle the hard is­sues – as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties, and the wants, needs and as­pi­ra­tions of each mem­ber of the fam­ily,’’ Mr Tur­ley said.

‘‘Farms that are in a good fi­nan­cial po­si­tion of­ten have fewer suc­ces­sion is­sues.

‘‘Many of th­ese own­ers recog­nise the need to in­volve ad­vis­ers and man­agers in the busi­ness to in­ject new ideas, max­imise per­for­mance and in­tro­duce new sys­tems,’’ he said.

Like other com­mer­cial busi­nesses, the agribusi­nesses sur­veyed were most con­cerned about is­sues they could not con­trol.

Four of the top five is­sues were those over which farm­ers had lit­tle or no in­flu­ence, such as ex­change rates and the end-price of their prod­ucts.

The only con­sis­tent is­sue of con­cern be­tween agri and non-agri busi­nesses was bal­anc­ing fam­ily and

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