Farmers' income up by 70pc in two years
FARM incomes have soared by over 70pc in the past two years thanks to booming milk, meat and cereal prices.
New Central Statistics Office figures show farm incomes rose by 32.5pc in 2011, on top of a 28.7pc increase in 2010.
However despite the buoyant figures, average income per farmer was still just €21,500, the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) said. This compares with around €13,000 two years ago.
The CSO figures show Irish farm income increased at twice the EU average -- although a few countries including Denmark and the Netherlands did even better.
Consumers have been hit with higher prices for beef, pork, lamb and dairy products in the past year, but the squeeze on spending has kept food inflation generally moderate, other new CSO figures show.
Farmers produced a record €6.2bn worth of food, while their costs rose to €4.7bn and they got €1.86bn in subsidies.
This left them with a surplus of almost €2.5bn in 2011, over €1bn more than in 2009.
Dairy farmers enjoyed the best year, as world milk prices rallied, netting them over €700m more than they got in 2009 when prices tanked.
However, cattle and beef farmers also enjoyed substantial gains of close to 20pc last year.
Cereal farmers also enjoyed a good year in 2011, with a bumper harvest and high prices resulting in a 52pc increase in the value of their crops. Sheep farmers also saw a 14pc improvement in sales last year.
IFA president John Bryan said the CSO's estimates confirmed continuing growth which was vital for general economic recovery.
"The improved buoyancy in agriculture is making a substantial contribution to maintaining jobs and small businesses across the rural and wider domestic economy," he said.
However, the cost of doing business was still a concern, and average farmer income was still low at €21,500, he added.
There is already increased price volatility this year which could put downward pressure on incomes in 2012.
Farming costs also rose by 12pc last year with big increases in the price of feed, fertiliser and energy.
The value of farm subsidies also rose by 11pc last year to €1.86bn, mainly because some payments for 2010 were not received until 2011.
Mr Bryan said that direct payments from the European Union to farmers represented over 70pc of farm income in 2011.