Farm incomes rise from low base
Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew commenting on the publication of the estimates for farm incomes has welcomed the increase in total farm incomes but warned that the low base means that many farm families are still struggling on incomes of £160 per week or half the average industrial wage.
Ms Gildernew said:
"It is good news that for the second year running that there is a real increase in farm incomes although the growth seen in 2003 has slowed considerably. This is driven by increases in output values across the board and increased subsidy receipts.
"Increases in farm incomes are expected for the key dairy, pig and poultry sectors yet they will come under threat in the future from the nitrate and water framework directives. Unless there is co-ordinated action the expected decline particularly in beef and lamb farming incomes will also continue. The fact that across all types of farming that net farm income has shown no signs of improving is very worrying. A net farm income of £8,500 hardly provides a sustainable basis for future development. Many farm families are still struggling on incomes of £160 per week or half the average industrial wage and many are also carrying huge debt.
"It is clear that farmers are doing their best to increase productivity and generate higher prices but we are yet to see real action in tackling the difficulties that the nitrates directive and the move over to decoupling will bring.
"It is important that we move away, as a matter of urgency, from any linkage to the tarnished image of British farming and make progress on the campaign to lift the beef ban, as well as develop greater co-ordination across Ireland to find more effective ways to challenge the implementation of the raft of EU directives that will have a massive impact on the future of farmers.
"I believe that central to any long-term strategy to build on high value produce must be a commitment and the political will to build on the well-established internationally recognised Irish brand. This demands that the potential of the all-Ireland agenda is realised. Market development also demands that we give a priority to moving towards a single all-Ireland system of traceability in order to bring as much confidence as possible to potential markets.
"The agri-industry is vital to our rural communities which play and should continue to play an important role in our economy." ENDS