THIRTEEN FARM businesses a week are closing in Northern Ireland, according to the latest statistics.

Figures published from The Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland‘s June Census, show that 667 businesses ceased trading in the year to June 2004 at a cost of 1200 farming jobs.

The Ulster Farmers‘ Union has been quick to voice its concern.

“The figures show that there is an ongoing problem in the industry with farm businesses continuing to close at an alarming rate,” said a union spokesman.

UFU president, Campbell Tweed, added: “These figures are very worrying. Losing almost seven hundred farm businesses in one year can not be ignored.

“When we enter the decoupled era next year the future of many more farm businesses will also be unclear.

“This is a strong message to the government that everything possible must be done to assist the industry,” said Mr Tweed.

“Problems with bureaucracy, export bans and unbalanced trade in the market place must all be addressed, so that the remaining farm businesses can plan a successful future,” he added.