Direct payments accounted for 160% of suckler farmer incomes last year

Direct payments from the EU in the form of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and various other schemes accounted for 77% of family farm incomes in Ireland on average across all sectors last year, according to the Teagasc National Farm Survey 2019 preliminary results.

This meant that the average direct payment across the board amounted to €427/ha out of an overall family farm income (FFI) of €554/ha on average.

Of these, the percentage the direct payments made as a proportion of the overall FFI varied considerably from sector to sector last year, the survey’s preliminary results – published earlier today, Monday, June 29 – found.

This ranged from just 31% of FFI for the average dairy farm last year, to a whopping 160%, which was the ‘cattle rearing’ (suckler) farm average in 2019.

According to the Teagasc report, “the data indicates that market income (before direct payments) is less than zero on drystock farms, indicating that on average these farms do not make a profit from production and are heavily dependent on support”.

In a sector breakdown of the percentages, for the dairy farm average, direct payments accounted for a payment of €347/ha last year, while the overall family farm income amounted to €1,132/ha. This is down from 34% of the overall FFI in 2018, but up well on the 23% recorded in 2017.

Source: Teagasc National Farm Survey 2019 preliminary results
Source: Teagasc National Farm Survey 2019 preliminary results

Meanwhile, on the ‘cattle rearing’ side of things, direct payments amounted to €461/ha on average last year (160%), compared to an FFI figure of €288/ha. This is up marginally on the 159% recorded last year – but up considerably on the 123% in 2017.

Noting that this proportion is the “highest on record”, the report added: “This indicates that the average suckler farm, with a FFI of €14,706, spent over €5,500 in direct payments over the course of the year to cover the farm’s operating loss.”

Turning to ‘cattle other’, the average farm payment in this sector accounted for 129% of the average income, working out at a payment of €496/ha compared to an income of €384/ha.

This is up substantially on the 110% proportion that direct payments accounted for in 2018, which in turn was an increase on the 96% in 2017.

The sheep farm average in 2019 was direct payments comprise 132% of FFI – in other words €411/ha compared to an FFI of €311/ha. This is actually down on the 143% share in 2018 but up on the 107% in 2017.

Source: Teagasc National Farm Survey 2019 preliminary results
Source: Teagasc National Farm Survey 2019 preliminary results

Finally, the tillage farm average for 2019 saw direct payments make up 74% of tillage farmers’ income, working out at an average direct payment of €427/ha compared to an overall FFI of €554/ha.