'Over-hyping' of food exports at odds with two-tier farm sector
Less than 20pc of cattle farms viable compared to 80pc of dairy enterprises
The Government has been warned the "over-hyping" of the future prospects of Irish farming does not live up to the realities for many farm families.
Independent MEP Marian Harkin (pictured) said the 85pc increase in food exports to €19bn under the new Food Wise 2025 blueprint for the agri-food sector must be questioned as the UN food price index drops to its lowest level in six years.
"The primary producer of today is sustained by the support of the Common Agricultural Policy and not by the market," the MEP said.
Her comments follow a report published by Teagasc highlighting that almost one in three farm households nationally, and half of all farms in the border region are economically vulnerable.
It found that 31pc of farms, or 24,000 families, were only sustained due to an off-farm income.
"We are increasingly moving to a two-tier farm sector where in 2014 over 80pc of dairy farm businesses were viable compared to less than one in five cattle farm businesses," said Dr Thia Hennessy, head of the Teagasc National Farm Survey.
It pinpointed that the economic viability of farms improved last year almost entirely due to last year's buoyant performance of the dairy sector.
Ms Harkin said the stark figures in the report contrasted sharply with the ambitious targets in the new 2025 blueprint.