FARMERS are taking an optimistic view of future opportunities for the agri-food sector, according to the Teagasc National Farm Survey results for 2010.
Teagasc’s analysis of the annual accounts of 1,000 Irish farming households brought good news for dairy and tillage farmers in particular, who enjoyed a 92% jump in income after a disastrous 2009.
Average farm income increased by 48% in 2010, bringing the average income figure for the farming sector in 2010 to €18,000. This incorporates the thousands of cattle and sheep farmers whose incomes remained stable, rising just 7%-8%.
Dr Thia Hennessy, head of the National Farm Survey, said while the increase in farm incomes was substantial, it simply represents a recovery in the sector, bringing incomes back in line with those recorded in 2008.
Dr Hennessy said: “Dairy and tillage farmers benefited significantly from the recovery in global dairy product and grain markets. Incomes on these farms doubled from 2009 to 2010. However, there was little improvement in cattle and sheep incomes in 2010. These drystock farms, that represent the majority of Ireland’s farming population, experienced an increase in income of 6%.”
IFA president John Bryan said: “Farm schemes are vital to the income of drystock farmers and the Government must maintain these key supports. The survey notes that these income figures bring farmers back to where they were in 2008.
“The increasing price volatility caused by greater exposure to the global market underlines the importance of the Single Farm Payment as a mechanism to underpin primary production.
“Family farms cannot survive severe ‘boom-bust’ cycles without the certainty provided by the EU Common Agricultural Policy,” said Mr Bryan.
There are huge differences at either end of the €18,000 average annual income. Even the higher-paid farmers compare poorly with the €33,000 average industrial wage.
ICMSA president Jackie Cahill said average dairy farmer income in 2010 was still €2,500 less than average dairy farmer income for 2008.
“The importance of the Single Farm Payment is again highlighted and this shows why the reform of CAP and the funding of the Single Farm Payment and other EU payments must remain a high priority for the minister and the Government generally,” Mr Cahill said.
Teagasc expert Brian Moran said: “The average sector income of €18,000 represents all systems and sizes of farms, but this average conceals a large variation in income across the different farming enterprises.”
Average income on the 30,000 full-time farms was approximately €43,000 in 2010. The average income on dairy farms increased by 92% to €47,000. Dairy farmers benefited from an almost 30% increase in milk prices in 2010, coupled with modest increases in costs.
Average income on cattle-rearing farms increased by 7%, bringing the average income to €7,000. Cattle farmers continue to be highly reliant on subsidies and, in 2010, direct payments contributed over 50% of total farm gross output on these farms.
Income on sheep farms increased by 8%, to an average of €11,568 in 2010. Sheep farmers benefited from higher lamb prices as well as the introduction of the new Sheep Grassland Payment.
Income increases were highest on tillage farms, with incomes more than doubling to an average of €33,500.
The National Farm Survey results show that farmers also fell victim to the recession in 2010, as the number of farm households that have an off-farm income declined. For the first time since 2003, the number of farm households where the farmer and/or the spouse works off the farm fell to under 50%.
Despite the substantial recovery in farm incomes in 2010, almost 40% of farm households remain in an economically vulnerable position, meaning that the farm business is not economically viable.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved