Thursday, 31 January, 2013

Horrendous farm income figures released by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development confirm 2012 as one of the worst years for Northern Ireland farm incomes since the turn of the century. Reacting to the news that income from farming has fallen by over 50%, the Ulster Farmers’ Union have said that their worst fears of the impact of the squeeze which has been facing farming families through the most of 2012, have been realized. 

Expressing his shock at the figures, UFU President, Harry Sinclair said; “The scale and extent of the collapse in farm incomes in 2012 will leave many farming families questioning whether the food supply chain will ever deliver a sustainable income for them.  Since the middle of last year the UFU have been highlighting just how bad the situation is for farmers, with costs increasing, farmgate prices falling and bad weather compounding an already difficult situation, and yet retailers and processors have refused to respond to the developing crisis.”

Mr Sinclair continued; “While we have seen previous reports about the continuing growth and resilience of the agri-food sector, it is obvious that whatever benefits have accrued to the sector, they have completely passed by the farmers who produce its raw material. Government has been relying on the Agri-Food Strategy Board to deliver a sustainable way forward for the industry but it is now perfectly clear that the first issue that the Board must address is just how long farmers will be able to continue to produce at below the cost of production. The implication for the economy and jobs is stark.”

Looking at the detail of the figures, Harry Sinclair commented;”With £292million of EU farm support more than double the farm income figure for 2012, the importance of continued EU support in the form of an acceptable CAP reform deal is even more imperative, and anyone who thinks that we can rely on the market alone to solve the industry’s problems is seriously deluded.”

However, even a good CAP outcome will not be enough.  The UFU is calling on Government along with the senior executives of our retailers and processors, to step up to the mark, and secure the futures of the 50,000 people who are employed in the Northern Ireland farm sector, by recognizing that the problems of a dysfunctional food chain must be urgently and satisfactorily addressed.  
Harry Sinclair concluded; “Farmers are fed up with meaningless retailer advertising campaigns claiming that they support local farmers.  These figures prove beyond doubt that farmers are in fact being taken for granted by retailers and food processors who were happy to ignore their plight during 2012.   This attitude has to change urgently to secure a future for our farm business.”