Confusion over department and CSO cereal area figures emerges

Information gathered by AgriLand suggests that there are significant anomalies between Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine crop (planting) area figures and those reported by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

For example, in September of this year, the CSO reported a 6.4% decline in the area planted to cereals from 2018. However, figures from the Department of Agriculture (seen by AgriLand) actually show an increase during the same period.

CSO June 2019 figures

The CSO’s provisional data, released in September, showed that in June of this year (2019) the total area under cereals equated to 245,000ha. This is significantly lower than the CSO’s 2018 final figure for June of 261,600ha. It should be noted that both figures included wheat, barley, oats and ‘other cereals’ – namely millet, rye and triticale.

Department figures

However, figures obtained by AgriLand from the Department of Agriculture would suggest an increase in the area sown to cereals from 2018 to 2019.

These figures apparently come from Basic Payment Scheme data. Provisional data was provided on June 11, 2019; while final data was received on October 23, 2019. An increase was observed in the figures supplied to AgriLand from June to October.

Looking at the data obtained by AgriLand in this table (below), and using the 2018 cereal area figure of 261,600ha and the department’s final figure for 2019, this would suggest that there was an increase in the area planted to cereals and not a decrease, as stated by the CSO on September 11, 2019.

An increase in the area sown to cereals from 2018 to 2019 would also make sense, considering the poor sowing conditions in the 2018 season for both winter and spring crops. There was also a dramatic move to maize during the 2018 season to provide fodder for livestock. The data suggests that the area planted to maize in 2018 jumped by 40% from 2017.

The CSO has subsequently confirmed to AgriLand (and notes on its website) that the figures it uses are obtained from the Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, the figures that AgriLand received from the department on June 11 (provisional) and October 23 (final) of this year are compiled from the Basic Payment Scheme applications.

The aforementioned anomaly calls into question the precise area under cereals in this country. Which set of figures are we to place our trust in?

It should be borne in mind that consistent reporting of a decline in the area under cereals can have an impact on decision making at ground level – up and down the country.

It can also affect decision making across the industry – at merchant level too.

The CSO has informed AgriLand that it has queried the data it received with the Department of Agriculture.

The Department of Agriculture has stated to AgriLand: “The department is aware of a discrepancy in the figures supplied previously. We are undertaking some detailed analysis to identify the underlying issue. As this is a large data set, this will take some time. The relevant figures will be made available as soon as they have been verified and finalised.”