Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland farm incomes down 23% since last year

cows in a field
Image caption The average income across all farming sectors was just over £26,000, a drop of £7,800 on the previous year

Farm incomes in Northern Ireland are down by almost a quarter on last year, according to government figures.

On average, they fell by 23% with only cereal businesses showing an increase.

Officials said higher feed prices have been the main cause of the downturn, with one tonne of feed increasing in price by 7%.

The average income across all sectors in 2018/19 was just over £26,000, a drop of £7,800 on the previous year.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Pig farm incomes were further affected by weaker prices

Dairy, cattle and sheep, pig and mixed farm incomes all fell by varying degrees across Northern Ireland's 24,956 farms.

Pig farm incomes were further affected by weaker prices.

The increase in cereal farm incomes was based on higher grain and straw prices.

'Wake up call'

The total gross output from farming this year was up 1% to £2.3bn, with dairying making the biggest contribution to that with £680m.

Direct subsidies paid to farmers this year came to £286m, a slight decrease on 2017/18.

The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) said the drop in incomes should be a "wake-up call" ahead of Brexit and called for "firm decisions" on future financial support arrangements for farming.

Its president, Ivor Ferguson, said the drop in incomes in both hill and lowland beef and sheep production posed "a threat to the very backbone of agriculture".

"If farmers are unable to cover rising input costs its [the agricultural industry's] future is in doubt," he said.

"Tacking this issue must be central to whatever new farm support structures are put in place after Brexit."

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