Farm Ireland

Monday 19 February 2018

Surge in milk production encouraging

Trevor Donnellan

The Central Statistics Office's (CSO) annual income figures for 2010 demonstrate the importance of international markets for Irish agricultural production. Few sectors of the Irish economy export such a large proportion of their output.

The stand-out figure relates to the value of milk production, which is up 38pc on last year's level, largely due to higher milk prices.

This increase in milk output could have been even larger had it not been for the fact that production in the first half of 2010 was poorer than anticipated given the favourable level of milk prices.

The 2010 beef output value figure is not as encouraging as it might appear.

Averaging over the year, beef prices in 2010 were little different compared with last year's level.

While the value of the beef output is up over 12pc in 2010, this is attributable to a higher rate of throughput compared with 2009. As a result, the Irish cattle herd has actually shrunk by 324,000 or 5pc in the last 12 months.

In the context of the decline in national ewe numbers in recent years, the rise in the value of sheep output in 2010 is encouraging. The sector continues to benefit from improving output prices due to falling production in Europe.

The acceleration in cereal prices at harvest time has restored the value of the cereal sector this year back up to 2008 levels.

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On the inputs side, the overall picture shows little change in 2010 relative to last year, but this overall figure hides some significant changes in terms of individual cost items.

Feed prices began 2010 at moderate level but the gradual rise in prices has limited the savings that might have been achieved in feed expenditure.

The reduction in fertiliser use, as a reaction to the high prices that prevailed in the 2007-2009 period, has been reversed in 2010. So, despite the fall in fertiliser prices, fertiliser expenditure has actually increased this year.

The triple whammy impact of rising fossil fuel prices, a weakening euro and the introduction of the carbon tax, are all evident in the 13pc increase in fuel and electricity expenditure.

Farmers can find out more about the the implications of these changes on the profitability of individual farm enterprises in 2011 by attending the Teagasc Annual Economic Outlook conference at the Heritage Hotel, Portlaoise on January 20.

Irish Independent