July 21, 2021


Farms in Ireland see incomes increased in 2020 despite COVID-19



Ireland's farm incomes increased in 2020 despite the pandemic and a major decline in demand from the food service industry, according to agri-research agency Teagasc.


The rise was also fueled by reduced production costs as farm input prices fell.


Teagasc's latest annual farm income survey suggests the average family farm income in the country rose by 9% to €25,662 (US$30,237) in 2020.


The average figure includes many small, part-time beef and cattle farmers and is therefore low in comparison with average wages in other sectors.


It also masks the bigger incomes being generated on the dairy side, traditionally the most profitable farming practice, where average incomes rose by 13% to €74,236 (US$87,469) last year on foot of lower production costs and increased milk volumes.


"Production costs were lower as key farm input prices fell in 2020. It had been initially feared that COVID-19 would significantly damage food demand, particularly for beef, due to food service closure and lockdown measures in Ireland and in overseas markets," Teagasc said. "However, this was effectively offset by growth in the consumption of food at home.


"A Brexit trade deal was eventually agreed, but the protracted negotiations created additional uncertainty, impacting beef prices in particular."


Irish beef and dairy farmers had benefited from higher cattle and milk prices, according to Teagasc.


As a result, there were increases for dairy and beef farmers, while incomes for cattle rearing farmers experienced small annual falls compared to 2019.


Incomes in the cattle rearing sector, which comprises farms that are mainly specialised in suckler beef production, were unchaged at €9,037 (US$10,648) while the incomes of beef finishing farms were up 8% at €14,813 (US$17,454) on higher output prices.


The survey show dairy farm debt remained similar to the 2019 figure with an average of €112,476 (US$132,531), excluding farms that had zero debt. Dairy farmers have borrowed heavily to invest in their operations since the lifting of EU milk quotas in 2015. The sector has also seen a large number of new entrants.


- The Irish Times