Farming unions say the latest Welsh farm income figures are appalling and reflect an industry in profound economic crisis.

The Welsh Assembly income statistics, based on the annual farm business survey, estimate the average net farm income of less favoured area grazing farms in 2007/08 at £3000, or 63% lower than in the previous year.

The average net income of severely disadvantaged farms plummeted by 80% to £1600, while the average income on lowland livestock farms fell 24% to £8500.

The farm business income of Less Favoured Area grazing livestock farms fell by 31% to £12,500 and on lowland units it declined by 14% to £18,800.

Incomes hit hard

But net farm incomes were hit hard by increased input costs, especially feed.

Despite this, dairy farms benefited from improved farm gate milk prices, so the average farm business income rose by 30% to £47,700 and net income increased by 55% to £34,400.

Across all types of Welsh farms, output was worth an average of £120,900, which was a rise of 8%. Inputs were 10% higher at £109,100 and average net farm income dropped 2% to £11,800.

Wholly unsustainable

“The figures demonstrate quite clearly that the industry’s income position is wholly unsustainable,” said NFU Cymru president Dai Davies.

The “appalling” statistics reflected a combination of market disruption linked to foot and mouth disease and bluetongue, which was compounded by ill-timed imports of New Zealand lamb.

Gareth Vaughan, Farmers Union of Wales president, blamed the decline in livestock farm incomes on the impact of the foot and mouth disease crisis in Surrey, which could be laid “fairly and squarely” at Westminster’s door.

“The virus escaped from government licensed laboratories and they should compensate for the losses that these dramatic figures reflect,” Mr Vaughan insisted.