23% fall in farming incomes 'highlights need for Brexit deal'
A fall of nearly 25% for Northern Ireland's total farm incomes shows the importance of securing a Brexit deal to protect the sector in future, it's been claimed.
Total income from farming fell by 23% from £467m in 2017 to £360m in 2018, according to figures from the Department of Agricultural, Environemnt and Rural Afffairs.
However, output for agriculture was 1% higher at £2.13bn in 2018, with growth in most sectors.
There was a 2% increase in the value of output from the livestock sector, while field crops rose by 3% and horticulture was 5% lower.
Dairying remained the largest contributor to output at £680m in 2018, a rise of 3%.
The annual average farm-gate milk price was 28.7p per litre, while the volume of raw milk produced increased by 3% to 2.3bn litres. Average prices are well up on 2016, when dairy farmers were stricken as prices fell as low as 17.15p.
The figures published yesterday are provisional, with a final report due in March.
UUP leader Robin Swann said they demonstrated that, with incomes rising and falling, farmers needed the reassurance of a Brexit deal to protect from the consequences of a no-deal.
"Farming is a difficult livelihood with fluctuating markets compounded by constant unknowns from one year to the next," he said.
"However, this uncertainty has been greatly increased in the two years since the EU referendum.
"It is ridiculous that we are now less than two months away from Brexit and our farmers still have no better idea now how they will be supported in the future than they had two years ago."
The MLA said farmers had been left with no idea of what future support would entail after leaving the EU.
"That, combined with the fact that Northern Ireland farmers have the most to lose from a no-deal Brexit, means the industry here is in an incredibly precarious situation," Mr Swann added.
"The industry has the potential to be decimated if it were suddenly forced to compete against cheap, lower quality food imported from other less reputable countries."