The number of farmers claiming Farm Assist dropped by 13% last year, according to Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine figures.

In its Annual Review and Outlook it says that at the end of December 2013, there were 10,303 participants in the Farm Assist scheme, a decrease of 13% on 2012. Expenditure over the year was about €100 million for the total Scheme, it says.

Last year also saw the value of agri-food exports increase by 9% in 2013, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney said, to a record value of €10 billion in 2013, accounting for almost 12% of all goods exports. He said the sector accounts for around 9% of total employment, and makes particularly significant contribution to employment in rural areas.

The Annual Review and Outlook anticipates that there will be a recovery in global dairy supplies in 2014. New Zealand dairy production, for example it says, is forecast to increase by 5% as it recovers lost ground from last year’s unfavourable weather conditions. Global demand for dairy product will be strong in 2014 as China continues to increase its demand for imported milk powders. All of this poses a generally positive outlook for Irish dairy exports as milk producers prepare for the removal of quotas in 2015, it says. Farm investment is also on the rise, it says, after a dramatic fall off in recent years.

It goes on to say that a modest recovery is expected in the EU beef market in 2014 with a slight rise in output. Consumer demand on the other hand is expected to remain sluggish due to an expected 3% drop in retail sales volumes on high price cuts in some markets. Global beef supplies are expected to remain stable for 2014 but trade levels are expected to rise by 4% due to rising import demand from China and an increase in growth from India, Brazil and Argentina.

A further drop in EU sheep meat output along with reduced New Zealand supplies should auger well for Irish sheep meat in 2014. New Zealand are anticipated to increase exports to China and the Middle East where demand for sheep meat is growing, this in turn will lead to an expected higher global price in 2014.