NEARLY half Britain’s farms expect a drop in profitability over the next year, according to the latest Rural Economy Index (REI).

While confidence in non-agricultural rural businesses rose during the third quarter of the financial year, 47 per cent of farmers predicted an income downturn compared with 28 per cent in the previous quarter.

The REI, compiled by the Country, Land and Business Association (CLA) and land agents Smiths Gore, reported growing business confidence in the non-farming rural sector with sales, profits, investment and employment expected to be higher in 2013.

However, 21 per cent of farmers reported lower sales over the past six months — up from 12 per cent in the previous quarter; while 31 per cent expected to make a lower investment in their business over the next 12 months — up from 20 per cent in the previous quarter.