NFU SCOTLAND has questioned farm income figures released last week by the Scottish Executive.

The figures suggest that average net farm income in 2003/04 was 19,800, up from 10,400 the previous year. But the executive predicted that farm incomes would fall to 10,500 in the current financial year. Farm minister Ross Finnie said the anticipated drop was disappointing, but understandable given the difficult harvest in 2004.

However, John Kinnaird, NFUS president, questioned the data, saying that the income situation on most farms was more stable than the figures suggested.

“There have been difficulties for many producers this year, particularly in the cereals and vegetable sectors where the weather and increased fuel costs have taken their toll,” said Mr Kinnaird. “

However, my gut feeling is that few farmers outwith these sectors will see their incomes drop as dramatically this financial year as these figures suggest. Generally, while most businesses are far from buoyant, there is a more stable income base for many farmers, helped in particular by greater control on costs,” he said.

Although the farm income figures had been useful in the past, Mr Kinnaird questioned how accurate they now were as a barometer of the industry”s fortunes.

“I am not suggesting the figures are deliberately misleading,” he said. “But it would be helpful to re-examine how they are put together to ensure they truly reflect the state of the individual sectors and the whole industry.”