Irish lag behind Euro counterparts in developing non-farming activities

A MERE 4% of Irish farmers are involved in non-farming secondary activities on their own land, according to a study issued by the National Rural Network, Teagasc and LEADER.

The proportion of English farmers who have developed a diversified activity is eight times higher. Teagasc rural economy specialist David Meredith said that off-farm employment has taken a severe hit in the past two years. As a result, more farmers are adding forestry to their mix, with 17,000 farmers planting trees since the mid-1990s.

David Meredith said: “The Teagasc National Farm Survey showed that off-farm employment accounted for 81% of household income on part-time farms and 38% of household income on full-time farms in 2009.

“On 35% of farms, the main farm operator had off-farm jobs while on 51% of farms the farmer and/or the spouse had off-farm employment.

“The level of off-farm employment dropped substantially from the peak in 2007 where on 41% of farms the main farm operator had off-farm employment, and the proportion of farms where the farmer and/or spouse had off-farm employment had reached 58%.”

Of the 5,000 Irish farmers (4% of the total) who have diversified to date, contract work, tourism and recreational activities are the leading non-farming activity. The other 120,000 farms (96%) have not diversified.

Around 2,500 farms have added farm contract work to core farming activities.

Of the other diversified farms, tourism-related activities are found on around 1,200 farms.

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