Farm incomes during 2015 fell by 41% from £312million in 2014 to £183 million, new figures have revealed.
The figures issued today by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) are the first (provisional) estimate for farm incomes in 2015.
Provisional figures indicate that the ‘Total Income from Farming’ (TIFF) in Northern Ireland fell by 41% in 2015 (42% in real terms) to £183million from £312million in 2014.
TIFF represents the return on own labour, management input and own capital invested for all those with an entrepreneurial involvement in farming. It represents farm income measured at the sector level.
Ulster Unionist Agriculture Spokesperson, Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, said the figures demonstrates the sheer scale of the crisis hitting farming families in Northern Ireland.
The Upper Bann MLA said: “Living on a working beef and suckling farm I know the tribulations that our local farmers go through on an almost daily basis. No one is in agriculture to make a loss, however it is becoming increasingly difficult for our local producers to remain viable under the strain of totally inadequate farm-gate prices, a challenging exchange rate, the major impact of the Russian import ban on EU agri-food produce and the volatility of the market.
“Whilst the revelation that the ‘Total Income from Farming’ in Northern Ireland fell by 41% in 2015 is shocking, it is not all that surprising. No one could have missed the crisis not only in our dairy farms, something which is still on-going, but also the poor prices being received for lamb, beef, pork and several key crops. It is deeply infuriating however given the collapse in prices farmers are receiving for their produce, the prices on the shelves have remained broadly the same. It is just yet another example of how our farmers are not being treated fairly.
“Agriculture is not only a wonderful career, but a deeply fulfilling way of life. Our local farms not only supply world-renowned produce but as custodians of the land they also help support one of our most important natural assets. In addition, given the potential for further significant growth in our agri-food production, I really would encourage young people into the occupation. However until fundamental steps are taken, such as removing the artificial price difference for products in Northern Ireland compared to that produced across the rest of the United Kingdom, then I remain deeply concerned about the long-term sustainability of farming here.
“Very few people in Northern Ireland would be able to tolerate a 41% wage cut, but yet that is what our local farms have effectively been hit with. The sheer scale of the collapse in farm incomes should now hopefully come as the wake-up call that DARD needs to intervene on the damaging impacts of unfair prices from processors and retailers.”
The DARD figures show that the total value of Gross Output for agriculture in Northern Ireland decreased by 9% to £1.74billion in 2015. This was driven by a 13% decline in the value of output from the livestock sector as a whole in 2015. Dairying remained the largest contributor to the total value of Gross Output despite falling by 27% to £480million in 2015. The annual average farm-gate milk price decreased by 28% in 2015 to 21.2 pence per litre, but the volume of raw milk produced in Northern Ireland rose by 3% to 2.3 billion litres, a new record level of milk production.
The output value of cattle was marginally higher at £394million in 2015. While the number of animals slaughtered fell by 2%, this was more than offset by a 9 kilogram increase in the average carcase weight, resulting in a 2% increase in the volume of meat produced. The average producer price for finished clean cattle was £3.26 per kilogram in 2015
The value of sheep-meat output decreased by 10% in 2015 to £63million. This decrease was almost entirely due to a 9% reduction in the average producer price, with little change in the volume of sheep-meat produced. The average producer price of finished lambs and hoggets was £3.40 per kilogram in 2015.
There were reductions in the values of output in two of the three intensive livestock sectors during 2015, with the value of pig output falling by 15% in 2015, to £113million, while that of the poultry meat sector decreased by 6% to £244million. Meanwhile, the value of egg output rose by 9% to £87million. All three of these sectors recorded an increase in production volumes, with pigs up by 7%, poultry meat up by 2% and eggs up by 4% compared with the previous year. However, average producer prices in the pigs and poultry sectors fell by 18% and 7% respectively, while the producer price for eggs rose by 5%.
The total output value for field crops fell by 7% in 2015 to £59million. This was mainly as a result of reductions in the producer prices for barley and wheat. The value of output of potatoes in 2015 declined by 8% to £17million as the volume of potato production fell due to a reduction in area planted. The value of output for wheat decreased by 12% to £9million and the output value of barley fell by 8% to £18million.
The value of output recorded in the horticulture sector was up by 16% year on year for 2015, at £119million. This was driven by volume increases in the mushroom and flower sectors of 23% and 22%, respectively. The mushroom sector is the largest of these sectors by value, with an output figure of £67million reported in 2015 (an increase of 24% year on year).
The estimated value of the 2015 direct subsidies (Basic, Greening and Young Farmer payments) was £236million, representing a decrease of 5% when compared with the value of the Single Farm Payment in 2014. This was due to the less favourable exchange rate between Sterling and the Euro.
The total value of Gross Input decreased by 4% in 2015, to £1.39billion. Feedstuff costs, which accounted for 52% of the total Gross Input estimate, fell by 6% to £729million in 2015. There was a 1% increase in the volume of feedstuffs purchased but a 7% reduction in the average price paid per tonne.
The total cost of fertilisers in 2015 fell by 10% as a result of a 3% decrease in the volume purchased combined with an 8% reduction in the average price paid per tonne. There was also a reduction in lime purchases, with the result that total expenditure on fertilisers and lime fell to £74million.
Total machinery expenses decreased by 10% to £136million in 2015. This was driven largely by an 18% reduction in the cost of fuel and oils.
A detailed document covering the period 2010–2015 and containing all the key figures used to derive TIFF in Northern Ireland can be downloaded from the DARD website at: https://www.dardni.gov.uk/articles/ni-agricultural-incomes.
Estimates for the United Kingdom will not be released until April 2016 and a breakdown of TIFF for the UK will not be available until then.