Investments and debt: How did Irish farms fare in 2019?

The national average percentage of farms with farm-related debt in 2019 stood at 38%, according to the Teagasc National Farm Survey 2019 preliminary results.

The average loan amount – across all sectors last year – was €59,598, while the average farm income of farms with debt stood at €35,737, the report found.

This varied considerably from 26% up to 64%, depending on the farm sector in question.

Dairy farms accounted for easily the highest proportion of farms with debt; some 64% of dairy farms had debt last year, according to the survey. Of these, the average loan amount was €112,377, while the average farm income of dairy farms with debt was €74,479.

Source: Teagasc National Farm Survey 2019 preliminary results

Moving on to beef enterprises, the ‘cattle rearing’ (suckler) farm average for 2019 found that 31% of such farms had (farm-related) debt as of last year. The average loan amount was €26,627, while the farm income of farms with debt was €10,476.

Meanwhile, 34% of ‘cattle other’ enterprises had debt on farms – with the average loan amount slightly higher at €34,631, compared to an average income of €15,271 for farms with debt.

Sheep farms accounted for both the lowest percentage and lowest loan amount recorded across all sectors for last year, with 26% of farms found to have debt, and an average loan amount of €25,907, compared to an average income of €21,959 for farms with debt.

Source: Teagasc National Farm Survey 2019 preliminary results

Finally, 35% of tillage farms had debts in 2019, according to the average for the sector, with an average loan amount of €63,661 versus a farm (with debt) income of €48,600.

Farm investment

On-farm investment was found to be up 2% in 2019 to €983 million, according to the Teagasc National Farm Survey 2019 preliminary results – with more than half of this invested on dairy farms.

The average investment was €33,091 per dairy farm in 2019, the results show, with dairy investment up 4% on the 2018 level last year.

Investment on tillage farms increased substantially in 2019, up 75% on average to €20,312 per farm. This increase reversed four successive years of investment decline on tillage farms. Investment on the drystock systems all decreased in 2019 – with the average levels of investments on ‘cattle other’, ‘cattle rearing’ and sheep enterprises decreasing by 15%, 13% and 9% respectively.

39% of farm debts was classified as long-term (more than 10 years) debt; 38% was in the medium-term (1-10 years) category; 14% was deemed as being a lease or hire purchase; and the remaining 9% either overdrafts or short-term debts.

Machinery

In terms of what investments were used for, machinery was the most common reason across the board, to varying levels.

In a breakdown of investments by sector, dairy farm investments were comprised of 47% building, 48% machinery and 6% land improvement investments.

Turning to ‘cattle rearing’ enterprises, 69% of such farm investments were machinery-related, 11% were building-related and 20% were land improvement measures.

‘Cattle other’ investments included: 60% for machinery; 29% for buildings; and 11% for land improvement. Similarly, sheep investments included: 57% for machinery; 34% for buildings; and 9% for land improvement.

Finally, 64% of tillage investments went into machinery, 33% went into buildings and just 3% went into land improvement.

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