Ireland's farmers getting older - CSO

Caitriona Murphy

The age profile of Irish farmers is continuing to rise. This was highlighted by CSO figures released last week that showed the average age of farmers increased by three years in the decade between 2000 and 2010.

The CSO census of agriculture shows the average age of farmers in Ireland in 2012 was 54, compared to 51 in 2000.

It also showed more than half (51.4pc) of all farm holders in 2010 were 55 or older.

Macra na Feirme agricultural affairs manager Derry Dillon said the aging trend was a worrying one for the farming sector.

"If Ireland is to meet the targets set out in Food Harvest 2020 and improve efficiency and productivity on farms, then we need to have younger farmers coming through," he maintained.

"Department of Agriculture figures show that 28pc of single farm payment recipients are aged 65 or older, while only 5pc are aged 35 or under," he said.

"In any other industry, people over 65 would be retired but farmers continue to work for years," he said.

"Those older farmers are less likely to invest on their farms and adopt new technology than the younger generation."

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Meanwhile, the census also showed that the number of people working on farms increased by 14,068 or 5.5pc in the 10-year period between 2000 and 2010, despite a decrease in the number of farms in Ireland in the same period (-1.2pc). The figures point to a trend of bigger farms, requiring more than one person to run them.

In 2000, the census found that there were 141,527 farms in Ireland but by 2012, this had fallen to 139,860. However, the number of people working on farms rose from 257,948 in 2000 to 272,016 in 2010.

The survey also showed a fall in the number of people working full-time on farms. Just over half (53.9pc) of all farm owners surveyed said farming was their sole occupation in 2010, a fall of 4.4pc since 2000. Almost one-third of farm owners described farming as a 'subsidiary occupation'.

Meanwhile, the survey also revealed women landowners were on the increase in Ireland. The number of farms owned by women increased by almost 15pc to 17,324 farms in the decade between 2000 and 2010.

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