Farmers received €1.8 billion in payments in 2016

The total amount of direct payments, including subsidies like the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), paid out to farmers last year was an estimated €1.8 billion, according to new figures.

Published today, July 27, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s annual review and outlook 2016-17 gave a breakdown of the value of farm subsidies last year.

By region, the province with the highest average payment was Leinster at €16,008. The total value of payments was over €546 million, with 34,137 recipients in the region.

The 45,929 recipients in Munster secured an average payment of €14,362, with the total paid out amounting to almost €660 million. The average payment in Connacht was €10,457; payments totalling €416 million were divided among 39,778 recipients.

And in Ulster the total value of payments was nearly €193 million – with an average of €10,388 going to 18,573 farmers. This brought the total number of recipients across the state to 138,417.

The average BPS payment was €9,568 – although 70% were less than this; implying that a small number of large payments raised the overall mean.

Age profile

Examining the trend in the average age of farmers across the EU, the report highlighted Ireland as ranking slightly above the European average for the proportion of farmers below the age of 35.

While the average was 6%, Ireland’s proportion was 6.3% – placing it in the top ten in terms of the number of young farmers. However, this proportion was only half that of the top ranking country – Poland – at over 12%.

The UK, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands all ranked near the bottom with a proportion below 4%, while Cyprus was the worst performer in terms of the number of young farmers – at less than 2%.

Of the total number of farm holders in the EU-28, almost a third were over 65.

Brexit

The agri-food sector was singled out as the industry most vulnerable to the negative economic consequences of Brexit – given that 40% of total agri-food exports went to the UK last year.

There was a surplus in agri-food trade with the UK, at €1.1 billion, last year. This was despite the fact the Ireland gets 46% of its agri-food imports from the country.

The report highlighted the various measures that have been taken to address the uncertainty created by Brexit, including the introduction of the Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme of €150 million to help alleviate currency pressures.

Efforts have also been made to develop closer ties with other EU partners, including Germany, Poland, France and the Netherlands.

Agri-food and the overall economy

As Ireland’s largest indigenous industry, the agri-food sector generates turnover of €26 billion a year, according to the report. As such, it accounted for 7.6% of total gross domestic product (GDP) and made up 10.3% of total exports in 2016.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, said: “While the Irish agri-food sector faces a period of considerable uncertainty arising from Brexit, I am confident that our shared vision for the sustainable development of the sector will enable us to address the challenges ahead.

“Having a strong evidence base is essential for policy formation and implementation. I am confident that the data included in this annual review and outlook will inform policy analysis and debate over the next year.”