18,000 extra farmers 'discovered' by CSO
Farm numbers have jumped by more than 18,000 due to the availability of new data.
Up to now, the CSO had been relying on sample farm data they had been collecting every two years and census returns collected every 10 years.
However, the inclusion of Department of Agriculture data from administrative files and animal movement records has revealed a huge level of under-reporting of active farm holdings.
The most recent detailed census by the CSO of farms in 2010 had estimated the number of active farms to be 121,000. This was in line with farm structure sample surveys carried out every two years which showed a continuous decrease in farm numbers from 141,500 in 2000.
But the inclusion of Department data shows the true number of active farms in 2011 to be 139,829 -- over 18,000 more than the figure CSO enumerators had expected. Close to 1,000 of these were farming less than 1ha.
The change in baseline data is part of the reason behind €162m being wiped off last year's operating surplus for the farming sector.
The extra farms increased the overall intermediate consumption of farm output and inputs. Farm subsidy income from the EU has also been reduced by €87m in the revised estimates, mainly due to delays in the pay out of EU monies from the Department.