Farm Ireland

Saturday 18 November 2017

Farmers dig deep with local spend

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The drop in farm incomes, which was highlighted by the Teagasc National Farm Survey, has been confirmed by the latest Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures.

As with the Teagasc study, the CSO analysis blames the dramatic decline in incomes last year on a drop in goods output which fell by 18.1pc.

However, one interesting statistic to emerge from the Teagasc research was the high level of on-farm investment during 2009.

Despite last year being one of the most difficult in a generation, farmers still invested an amazing €662m on their holdings.

Total investment was well back compared to the €2bn spent in 2008 but, then, this was not a fair comparison given that the Farm Waste Management Scheme accounted for the vast bulk of the massive investment two years ago.

When viewed against 2007 figures, it is clear that the total capital spend by farmers actually held up very well.

Indeed, the fact that farmers invested an average of €6,470 in their holdings highlights their resilience and commitment to the sector.

It also confirms the importance of farming to the rural economy. The vast bulk of the €662m would have been spent locally, benefitting builders, suppliers and trades people.

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Last year the State allocated €5.5bn to capital projects. This was spent on everything from motorway construction to the extension of hospitals and schools.

However, it could be argued that the capital investment commissioned by farmers was every bit as important at community level.

For the country's economic planners, one of the lessons from Teagasc's National Farm Survey must be the potential of the farm sector to drive enterprise at ground level.

The farming sector's detractors could do worse than compare the real economic benefit of farm payments -- which they love to characterise as handouts -- with the generous budgets allocated to the likes of FÁS and Enterprise Ireland.

I'd argue that farming would emerge very favourably from any such comparison.

Irish Independent