The average Irish farm received a direct payment of €17,850 in 2020, with family farm incomes (FFI) still highly reliant on direct payments, the Teagasc National Farm Survey shows.

For drystock farms the survey found that market income, before direct payments are included, is "less than zero".

Teagasc said this indicates that "on average, these farms do not make a profit from production and are heavily dependent on financial support".

The average suckler farm received €14,207 in direct payments last year and that made up 157% of family farm income.

"This indicates that the average suckler farm, with direct payments of €14,207, spent €5,170 of those direct payments over the course of the year to cover the farm’s operating loss," Teagasc said.

Finishing farms and other cattle farms were operating in a similar way, with an average direct payment of €16,964 equivalent to 115% of FFI.

There was a marked improvement in the figure on sheep farms in 2020, although still relatively high, the contribution of payments to FFI fell from 132 to 103%, year-on-year.

Dairy and tillage farmers are less reliant on direct payments for income, with the average direct payment received on dairy farms stable at €20,430, comprising 28% of FFI.

Direct payments on tillage farms accounted for 79% of average system FFI in 2020, at €25,729, on average.

Regional breakdown

Farmers in the south and east of the country received the highest average FFI in 2020, with the average income standing at €38,034. However, direct payments still account for a significant proportion of farm income, accounting for 52% and 64% of FFI in south and east regions respectively.

The lowest FFI was reported in the border region, standing at an average of €14,297. This is two-and-a-half times smaller than the southeast region figure, reflective of the smaller farms there. As a result, direct payments were of more importance in the border region compared to the southeast, accounting for 109% of the average FFI in 2020.

Western regions were next in line in terms of their reliance on direct payments. Here, direct payments comprise on average 99% of FFI which was approximately €15,515. In comparison, direct payments made up 84% of the average FFI in 2020.