Farm incomes buck the trend to recover from disastrous 2009
FARM incomes have soared by 46pc this year as rising world prices for milk and grain benefit Irish farmers and food exporters.
In one of the few economic success stories this year, Irish food output increased by €763m, with dairy farmers alone receiving an extra €427m, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
The radical improvement comes after a disastrous 2009 when farm incomes plummeted by 31pc. The recovery even exceeded expectations and more than made up for last year's decline.
It has largely been export-driven, helped by a weakening euro, as food prices in the supermarket have fallen due to intense competition.
The value of food sold from farms increased from €4.7bn in 2009 to €5.5bn this year, according to the CSO's advance estimates for the year.
Once farming costs of more than €4bn and subsidies of €1.8bn were factored in, farmers were left with an operating surplus or income of €2.278bn, up from just €1.56bn last year.
Cereal farmers saw the biggest improvement, as world prices soared due to shortages in Russia. The value of crops grown in Ireland almost doubled to €202m.
Dairy farmers saw the value of milk output rise by 38.8pc to €1.52bn -- up from just €1.1bn in 2009, when prices hit the floor.
The amount paid for beef was up by €178m to €1.63bn.
The Irish Farmers' Association said that based on these new figures, the average farm income now stood at €17,500.
However, it added that the single farm payment and other schemes made up a very big share of this.
"From a point 12 months ago where farm incomes collapsed, this improvement is very much needed by farming families, whose livelihoods were badly affected in 2008 and 2009," said IFA president John Bryan.
The recovery augured well for the planned expansion in the sector which would drive exports and jobs and contribute to Ireland's economic recovery, he said.
However, he warned that retailers were still taking excessive margins on the food they sold and would have to pass more of these back to farmers to reflect the escalating costs of animal feed, fuel and fertiliser.
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan noted the contribution of the agrifood sector to the expansion in Irish exports during his budget speech this week.
Bord Bia said Irish food and drink exports had performed well so far this year, rising by almost 8pc from January to August to reach €4.78bn. This was due to rising world prices, recovering demand for meat and dairy products and a better exchange rate for exporters.
It added that all major categories of food had seen higher exports, led by dairy, meat and beverages, and further growth was expected for the end of the year.