More than a 30% boost in farm incomes recorded in 2017

The mixed income in agriculture in 2017 shows an annual increase of 33.7%, according to the latest estimates from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The increase is in line with trends shown by other CSO short-term indicators in agriculture. The main drivers of the change are attributed to milk and livestock outputs; which increased by 39.2% and 6.6%, respectively.

Further comparison between this year and last year shows that goods output at producer prices increased by 12.8% – or €903 million – reaching a current value of €7,961 million for this year.

Joe Healy, president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), said the CSO figures underlines the importance of an improved EU budget in the upcoming CAP reform.

Milk was the largest contributor to the growth in goods output with an increase of €702 million in 2017 – prices are up by 28.3%; while volume has risen 8.6%.

The value of cattle output increased by 6.3% and is estimated at €2,425 million. According to the CSO this increase of €143 million above 2016 levels is driven by improved prices and a higher volume of production.

Other estimated changes include:
  • Pig output increased by 11.2% to reach €520 million – mainly due to improvement in prices.
  • Total intermediate consumption was 1.5% greater than in 2016 and is estimated to be €5,182 million.
  • Expenditure on commercial feeding increased by 5.1% to reach €1,420 million – mainly due to an increase of 7.0% in the volume of consumption.
  • Expenditure on fertilisers amounted to €505 million in 2017 – a decrease of 0.6% on 2016. This was in spite of an increase of 11.3% in the volume of fertilisers used.
  • The costs of energy and lubricants increased by 5.3%, or €20 million, following a rise in oil prices.

The value of other subsidies less taxes on production is estimated to have increased by 3.4% – from €1,592 million in 2016 to €1,646 million in 2017.

(Note this figure includes subsidies already paid and those scheduled to be paid by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine by the year end.)

The figures for 2017 are advance estimates which are provisional and based on the latest available data. These figures are subject to change once the complete set of data for the full year becomes available. Updated figures for 2017 will be published in the Preliminary Estimate in March 2018, followed by the Final Estimate in June 2018.

Mixed fortunes

In response to the new CSO figures, IFA president, Joe Healy said farm income in 2017 points to “mixed fortunes” with a significant improvement for dairy farmers and very real income pressures in other sectors.

He highlighted that gains in other sectors were negligible – particularly in drystock and tillage, where incomes are still unsustainably low.

Their very survival depends on direct payments. It underlines how crucial an improved EU budget is, in the context of the upcoming CAP reform. The figures further support the IFA case for a substantial additional payment for suckler cows.

“While it has been a relatively good year for dairying, it came after one of the worst years on record in 2016. Price volatility remains a huge threat in the context of the significant investment undertaken by dairy farmers.

“Irish farmers face increased demands on sustainability, on the environment and on climate change. With the dangers presented by Brexit and a potential Mercosur trade deal, they will continue to depend on a strongly-funded Common Agricultural Policy in the years ahead,” he concluded.