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Fish and farming jobs on the rise after industry fight back

By Wells Journal  |  Posted: June 07, 2012

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Farming and fishing jobs have risen by almost 60 per cent in Somerset.

Thousands more people have been employed in the industry in the county over the last three years, according to latest figures.

Details of the Somerset County Council report showed the number of people employed in the sector rose by 3,600 to 10,000 between April 2008 and March 2011.

However, total employment in the county fell from 252,600 to 240,300, a drop of 4.9 per cent in the same three-year period.

While some in the farming sector may be surprised at the rise, NFU leaders attributed it to an industry that has transformed itself since the low point of the BSE and foot-and-mouth crises a decade and more ago.

NFU president Peter Kendall said: "There's been a massive change from an industry that, if you go back ten years, had BSE and foot-and-mouth.

"There was an industry that was pretty unsure of itself, that was pretty downbeat but, with the growth in jobs and new business start-ups in Somerset over the last three years, we've got a great story to tell." Last year agricultural engineering exports, like tractors and other machinery, from Somerset rose by nearly 20 per cent.

The report though did paint a bleaker picture when it came to small businesses surviving and thriving during the recession.

In 2010 there were 21,050 active enterprises in Somerset, down from 21,210 in 2004. Until 2008, the report says, the number of new businesses created exceeded the number which closed.

But by 2010 those figures had reversed, when there were 1,635 business births in the county compared to 2,320 business deaths.

This pattern is likely to continue into 2012 given the continuing tough economic climate, the report predicted.

Speaking to the BBC, John Davies, director of De Lacy Executive which specialises in agricultural recruitment, warned the current employment boom would not continue unless more people from outside the industry were employed with new ideas.

But Mr Kendall said the industry was not "a closed shop". He said there were "some exciting new entrants" at this year's Royal Bath and West Show, "not just having their own farms... but coming in and building careers".

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