Dairy incomes in Northern Ireland are projected to fall by 78% during 2015/16, according to provisional figures released this week by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD).

The sector recorded a year-on-year fall of 27% in gross output during 2015, down to £480m. However, milk output rose by 3% during the same period to 2.3 billion litres. The average farmgate milk price paid in 2015 was 22p/L.

These figures give credence to the view that many dairy farmers in the North have continued to push output levels in order to maintain what they regard as a reasonable monthly milk cheque.

Provisional figures indicate that the ‘Total Income from Farming’ (TIFF) in Northern Ireland will fall by 41% in 2015 (42% in real terms) to £183 million from, £312m in 2014. Pig incomes are likely to decrease by 51% during the current financial year.

Where inputs are concerned fertilisers purchases by farmers in Northern Ireland fell by 10% during 2015. This was made up by a 3% decrease in the volume purchased combined with an 8% reduction in the average price paid per tonne.

There was also a reduction in lime purchases, with the result that total expenditure on fertilisers and lime fell to £74m.

Ulster Farmers’ Union chief executive Wesley Aston said that the income figures highlighted the importance of the Single Payment to agriculture in Northern Ireland.

Agriculture is under tremendous financial pressure at the present time.

“This has been brought about by the significant downturn in agricultural markets.

“Provisional figures indicate that TIFF in Northern Ireland fell by 41% in 2015 to £183 million. The equivalent figure for 2014 was £312m

“This is a 42% drop in real terms

“CAP payments of £236 million are included in the figures. The TIFF was £53m less that these payments.”