Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus says that the Teagasc National Farm Survey (NFS) exposes major issues for farming, in particular the geographical and sectoral differences in Irish agriculture.
According to the survey, the average family farm income rose by 9% in Ireland in 2020 to €25,662 but there was a huge gap between sectors, with the average income of suckler farms coming in at €9,037 while on dairy farms it was €74,236.
The unattractiveness of the beef sector for young farmers means the only option they see is taking on huge debts to convert their family’s operation to dairy
“Dairy farms carry more debt, have more unpaid labour units, with less off-farm employment. However, the figures give us an indication that the beef sector is struggling,” MacManus said.
“Their dependence on CAP payments to ensure some profit is made, is around four times higher than in the dairy sector, where CAP payments make up less than one-third of their income.
“The unattractiveness of the beef sector for young farmers means the only option they see is taking on huge debts to convert their family’s operation to dairy," he continued.
“This is not an option for all, due to land quality and fragmentation. The sector’s general trend has led to 60% of Irish beef coming from the dairy herd, with the remaining coming from the suckler cow. If we are to maintain our reputation as producing the highest quality beef in the world, we need to protect the suckler cow portion and ideally nurture it.”
He also pointed out geographical differences and said that farmers in certain rural areas had been let down by Government.
“Looking at the geographical mix, average farm incomes were highest in the southeast at €38,034 and lowest in the border region, where an average income was approximately two and half times smaller at €14,297,” he said.
“In the west region, CAP payments made up 99% of a farmers income, compared to less than 60% in the south region. This can be partly explained by the heavier concentration of dairy farmers in the south as well as land quality. What it means for farmers in the west and border region is that off-farm income is critical to survive.”