Teagasc figures highlight 'difficult year for farmers'

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Brexit threat to agriculture must be top of Government agenda says IFA President

IFA president Joe Healy

The farm income figures released by Teagasc highlight the critical importance of both price returns and direct supports for farm enterprises, and the need for a continued focus on both of these issues by the Minister for Agriculture and Irish Government, according to IFA president Joe Healy.

The IFA leader was commenting on the 2016 National Farm Survey, which showed that average farm income fell by 9 per cent in 2016, to €24,060.

He said: "2016 was a difficult year for farmers, with low prices across almost all sectors. Dairy farmers experienced a drop of €10,000 - or 17 per cent - due to low milk prices in 2016. The Teagasc figures highlight the critical importance of the industry returning a strong price to farmers when the market can support it. Based on the current positive market outlook, IFA is clear that co-ops now have scope to increase the May milk price by up to 2cpl."

Mr Healy highlighted the very difficult year that farmers had experienced in the tillage sector, with reduced prices and yields, and an increase in production costs. Overall, tillage farmers experienced a 10 per cent drop in incomes.

The figures show clearly the need for an urgent focus in the Department of Agriculture on a scheme for tillage farmers who lost crops in the 2016 harvest. The Minister indicated he would introduce a scheme for these farmers months ago, and he must instruct his officials to make it happen immediately," said Mr Healy.

Incomes in the drystock sectors were relatively stable in 2016, with increases in direct payments largely offsetting lower price returns, as measures in the Rural Development Programme have been fully implemented.

"The Teagasc analysis makes clear the ongoing issue of low farm income in drystock sectors, with farmers continuing to produce at or below the costs of production. Delays in payments compound the cashflow pressures on these farms, and it is unacceptable that farmers have been left waiting long periods for payment due to administrative bottlenecks," he said.

The IFA President said the farm income figures reinforce the critical importance of securing a strong CAP budget in the next reform.

"Brexit presents a major threat to Irish farm incomes. I am clearly saying to the Government that there can be no cut to the CAP budget resulting from the UK exit," he said.