Farm Ireland
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Tuesday 17 October 2017

Proportion of farmers in the workforce down 85% in last 50 years - CSO

Peter and Paula Hynes on the family farm in Aherla, Co Cork. Photo: Claire Keogh
Peter and Paula Hynes on the family farm in Aherla, Co Cork. Photo: Claire Keogh
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The number of people which classified themselves as farmers in Census 2016 declined by over 12,000, according to new figures released by the CSO today.

Having increased for the first time in decades in 2011, farmer numbers were likely hit by a recovery in the construction sector which saw numbers rise over the period.

The decline in the agriculture sector is evident from the data with the sector accounting for just 4.6pc of total employment in 2016 compared to 31.3pc 50 years ago in 1966. A fall of 85pc.

The Census figures also show that 88.2pc of workers in the agriculture sector in 2016 who were male.

census agriculture.PNG
Source: CSO

Meanwhile, the construction sector, which saw a dramatic fall of 124,827 between 2006 and 2011, increased by 15,092 between 2011 and 2016.

In total, the number of people at work increased by 199,281 to reach 2,006,641 in April 2016.

The number of females at work grew by 9.0% to 929,967, while there were 1,076,674 males at work, an increase of 12.8% since 2011. The number of retired people increased by 19.2% to 545,407.

Farmers get three-quarters of income from Brussels

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The figures come as farmers depend on cheques from Brussels to make up three-quarters of income.

The latest National Farm Survey from agricultural body Teagasc shows income on farms dipped by 9pc last year, with average earnings now standing at €24,060, or less than the average industrial wage.

And the snapshot of more than 83,000 farms showed farming remains highly reliant on direct payments from the EU's Common Agricultural Policy.

The average direct payment per farm was nearly €18,000 last year - which was 75pc of farm income on average and almost 100pc of the income on cattle and sheep farms.

Teagasc economist Dr Kevin Hanrahan raised concerns over the post-Brexit environment, with a potential 10pc drop, or €130m hole, in the CAP budget after 2019.

"The UK is the second largest net contributor to the EU budget," he warned, adding the terms of the "divorce" settlement were far from finalised.

Teagasc economist Dr Emma Dillon said falls in milk prices and poorer crop yields contributed to the drop in income in 2016. Milk prices fell almost 10pc last year, despite production expanding after removing quota restrictions. Four-out-of-five dairy farmers increased production but income still fell 17pc to €51,809. However, a strong "rebound" was expected with an increase in milk prices this year. Tillage farms were hard hit by poor crop yields and prices, resulting in a 10pc fall in average income to €30,816.

Increase in payments under the environmental scheme Glas and suckler cow payments saw direct payments to cattle farmers rise, with income rising up to 4pc. However, the average yearly cattle farm incomes remain low at just over €12,000, and €16,000 on sheep farms. One-in-three farmers works elsewhere off-farm to supplement incomes.

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