The Agricultural Productivity Task Force - FAQ

Industry and Government driving productivity improvements together

What is meant by the term 'agricultural productivity?

Productivity is about the rate at which inputs (land, water, labour, capital) are converted into outputs. It is a measure of the efficiency of production not the quantity of output produced. Increasing productivity can mean producing more output for the same amount of input or producing the same output for reduced levels of input. Either way, improving productivity has a beneficial impact on agricultural business' profitability and the environment.

How productive is UK agriculture?

Like our economy as a whole, farming productivity growth is below its potential and the rate of growth is lower than many of our major competitors. UK Total Factor Productivity (the measure of how efficiently agriculture and horticulture convert all inputs to outputs) has grown by 18% since 1991, a rate of improvement that has not kept pace with other competitor countries such as the Netherlands (52%) and France (82%), as shown in the graph below:

International comparisons of Total Factor Productivity growth, percentage change since 1991

Source: Defra analysis of USDA international agricultural productivity data from USDA ERS

Why do we need to improve productivity?

In addition to the direct impact of below-optimum productivity on the success of individual farm businesses, lagging behind our competitors undermines our industry's ability to compete in a more globalised market, deliver against consumer expectations and add value to the economy. Left untouched, our industry will decline, denying consumers and our domestic food industry the affordable, sustainably produced agricultural goods they demand. Higher productivity growth would also positively affect the industry's sustainability since it can be closely correlated to lower environmental impacts.

How will Task Force actually help farmers and growers?

The APTF is focused on delivering tangible improvement in agricultural productivity and help every agricultural business in England take positive steps. The APTF is driving forward the recommendations of the Agricultural Productivity's February 2020 report, which identified five areas which need to be addressed to help farmers and growers bolster their business' productivity:

  1. Creating a resource of independent evidence that supports business decisions (led by the Evidence for Farming Initiative)
  2. Helping farmer and growers measures business performance – what to measure and how to do it (led by the Key Performance Indicators Group)
  3. Involving farmers and growers more involved in research & development so it responds to their needs, and getting resulting innovations to market more quickly. (Led by the Research & Innovation Group)
  4. Helping farmers and growers make the make the most of their workforce. (Led by the Skills Group)
  5. Taking action to improve rural infrastructure that supports agricultural businesses, such as 5G and improved electrical networks (Led by the Rural Infrastructure Group)

How is this initiative different to what has gone before?

The ATPF is an industry-wide initiative which is building on many existing activities and resources, and the strong momentum that already exists, to support productivity improvements. Critical to its success is the fact the industry and UK Government are committed to working together to co-design and co-deliver new policy initiatives, with the aim of bolstering agricultural productivity in England. It provides a neutral space for a wide range of industry representatives to be heard by Government, enabling the industry to take great ownership and leadership in informing policy decisions.

How were the Task Force's priorities decided?

The APTF is driving forward the recommendations made in a report by its predecessor, the Agricultural Productivity Working Group. The report identified five key areas which relate closely to the foundations of productivity identified in the UK Government's Industrial Strategy. They are based on the premise that whilst transformational change is required, we must also support our current industry to adapt, change and improve overall productivity growth.

How were the members of the APTF selected?

The members of the APTF are voluntary and come from a range of bodies within the agricultural industry and from Defra. The Task Force is very open to hearing from any other industry organisations or companies which would like to contribute to its work. Please contact us if you would like to get involved.

What about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

The APTF is drawing expertise from across the UK but is mindful of the different policy, regulatory powers and delivery frameworks that exist across the Devolved Administrations. It is hoped that the recommendations may provide inspiration for other parts of the UK.

Last reviewed: 01 Mar 2021