Dramatic fall in farm incomes

PROVISIONAL estimates for farm incomes in Northern Ireland last year make for dire reading.

While the overall picture varies from sector to sector, the headline figures are depressing – with the ‘Total Income from Farming’ (TIFF) falling by 44.0 per cent (47.8 per cent in real terms) from £609 million in 2022 to £341 million in 2023.

TIFF represents the return on own labour, management input and own capital invested for all those with an entrepreneurial involvement in farming.

Farm business income measured across all farm types is expected to decrease from an average £51,043 in 2022/23 to £27,345 in 2023/24 – a decrease of £23,699 or 46 per cent per farm.

However, incomes for cattle, sheep and pig farms are expected to increase between 2022/23 and 2023/24 due to higher beef and pig prices in the latter period.

Farm incomes for cereals, dairy and mixed farms are expected to fall by 81 per cent, 70 per cent and 33 per cent respectively due to lower grain and milk prices in the 2023/24 year.

DAERA Minister Andrew Muir described the figures as “disappointing” and reflecting “the reduced milk prices from the record high levels of the previous year and the continued elevation in input costs for the agriculture sector”.

Total gross output for agriculture in Northern Ireland was seven per cent lower at £2.87 billion in 2023.

There was a six per cent decrease in the value of output from the livestock sector, while field crops decreased by 21 per cent and horticulture decreased by 27 per cent, with the figures covering the calendar year, therefore representing the outturn across two harvest years.

Dairying remained the largest contributor to the total value of gross output at £892 million in 2023; a decrease of 21 per cent between 2022 and 2023.

The annual average farmgate milk price decreased by 21 per cent to 35.1 pence per litre while the volume of raw milk produced in Northern Ireland decreased by 0.2 per cent to 2.5 billion litres.

The output value of cattle was six per cent lower at £568 million in 2023. The total number of animals slaughtered decreased by 5.8 per cent in 2023, whereas the average carcase weights for clean and cull animals were 1.3 per cent and 2.3 per cent lower respectively. These changes resulted in the volume of meat produced being 7.1 per cent lower in 2023.

The average producer price for finished clean cattle was £4.60 per kilogram in 2023 while the average producer price for cull animals was £3.24 per kilogram, 10 per cent and three per cent higher than their respective averages for 2022. There was also a stock change of minus £48 million due to a reduction in the number of cattle on ground between 2022 and 2023.

The value of output from sheep decreased by 0.5 per cent to £109 million in 2023. The total number of sheep slaughtered increased by four per cent in 2023 whereas the average carcase weight decreased by two per cent to 22 kilograms. Volume of sheep meat produced increased two per cent in 2023. The average producer price increased by three per cent to £5.50 per kg.

The value of output in the poultry sector increased by two per cent to £380 million in 2023 while the egg sector increased by 47 per cent to £223 million.

The value of pig output also increased by 15 per cent to £297 million.

The poultry sector recorded an eight per cent increase in its production volume for 2023, whereas the pigs and eggs sectors recorded a four per cent and 0.3 per cent decrease in their respective production volumes when compared with their previous year levels. Producer prices in the pigs and eggs sectors increased by 20 per cent and 43 per cent respectively, whereas the producer price for poultry decreased by three per cent.

The total output value for field crops decreased by 21 per cent in 2023 to £86 million. This was due to decreases in both grain prices and yields in 2023.

The value of output for cereals decreased by 37 per cent to £40 million whereas the value of output for potatoes increased by 15 per cent to £31 million.

The value of output recorded in the Horticulture sector was lower year on year for 2023 at £70 million. Mushrooms and vegetables are the main contributors to this sector in value terms, with a combined estimated output value of £46 million.

Further information is available at www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/ni-agricultural-incomes

A detailed analysis of farm incomes is to be published by DAERA next month.

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