Almost two-thirds of cereals farmers in England made no money at all from growing crops in 2014-15, according to official data.
Defra has published an updated version of its Farm Business Income (FBI) estimates, which show 60% of cereal farms failed to make a positive income from farming activities, once their single farm payment (SFP), funding from agri-environment schemes and other diversified income had been excluded.
On cereal farms, income fell by just under 9% in 2014-15 to £45,000.
See also: Farm incomes fall across most sectors
This was largely driven by a fall in crop output as a result of lower commodity prices for cereals and oilseed rape, despite the return to more normal cropping rotations and higher yields than those seen in 2013.
The higher value of the pound against the euro had a negative impact on prices as domestic production had to compete with cheaper imports and alternative suppliers for export markets. It also led to a lower SFP.
For the second year running, average incomes on general cropping farms also fell by almost a quarter to £52,000.
Lower output from potatoes and barley was responsible for most of the fall, offset to some extent by sugar beet, field vegetables and winter wheat.
However, input costs increased to a greater extent than output, with greatest increases for labour, contract charges, crop protection and general farming costs.
Other results were as follows:
- On specialist pig farms, average income fell by almost a quarter to £49,400/farm.
- On horticulture farms, average incomes fell by 7% to £31,500.
- Average incomes increased on lowland grazing livestock farms by almost a quarter to £18,500, but this was from a low base and was due to farmers finding cost savings and an increase in income from agri-environment schemes and diversified activities.
- On dairy farms, average FBI fell by about 5% to £83,800. This figure reflects that for the first six months of the 2014-15 year, milk prices were reasonably high.
- Average incomes on mixed farms fell by just over a quarter between 2013-14 and 2014-15 to about £21,500.
All figures are based on a March 2014 – February 2015 financial year.