Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has expressed concern for the farming industry in the north, following the release of the Gosling Report, commissioned by NI Producers Association and Farmers For Action UK NI.
Ms Anderson said: “We knew the farming industry has been hit hard in recent years; however the report, compiled by economist Paul Gosling reveals some stark statistics and figures. Agriculture is one of our most important industries. It is responsible for 1.4% of the north’s economic output, compared to 0.6% in Britain.
“However, Gosling’s research has found that although farming incomes have collapsed globally and the collapse has been much more severe in the north than in Britain. In 2014 alone, farming incomes in the north of Ireland fell by 17%, compared to 4% in Britain.
“Many of the north’s farmers are operating at a loss. Some 14% of the farms in the six counties reported a loss in 2013/14; 23% did so in 2012/13.
“Let’s not forget that whilst nearly 50,000 people in work on our farms, almost half of them as employees, many other jobs are dependent upon the farming industry. For every ten jobs in meat production, another six and a half jobs are indirectly created in other parts of the economy. In dairy production, every ten jobs within the sector generate another ten jobs elsewhere in the economy.
“An added worry is the potential British exit from Europe, which could see a disastrous impact on the farming industry. The loss of millions of pounds of CAP each year and a curtailment in cross border trade could lead to the collapse of one of our most important industries.
“Despite the accomplishments efforts of my party colleague Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill, with the Going For Growth and Farm Business Improvement Scheme, the support is not there from the British government, her southern counterpart Minister Simon Convey or the Agri-Commissioner in Europe, Phil Hogan.
“Agriculture is a cornerstone of the north’s economy, in terms of the proportion of economic activity it is directly and indirectly responsible for and therefore needs to be front and centre of any in/out Brexit debates, as well as added support and protection from the British government and the EU.”