THE FARMERS Union of Wales has welcomed new statistics showing further improvement in farm incomes, but insists that they are still unacceptably lower than a decade ago.

The latest Welsh farm business survey figures produced by the Institute of Rural Studies at Aberystwyth indicate that in real terms net income of full time livestock farms more than doubled between 1999 and 2003.

The annual survey of survey of 550 units revealed an income of £13,600 compared with £6300 four years before, but the figure was still £13,800 lower than in 1995/96.

Between an 8 year low point in 1998/99 and last year dairy farm net incomes rose by £4500 to £18,600.

Over the same period LFA cattle and sheep farm incomes climbed by £7800 to £12,500 and those of lowland livestock farms from a loss of £1400 to £9100.

Taking 1995/96 as a base year, last year‘s accounts show that the average net farm income for all types of units was still £13,800 down.

The average net income of lowland beef and sheep units was almost 52% below the base figure.

Despite the recovery average dairy farm incomes were still only 47% and those of LFA units 57% of what they were in 1995/96.

“In any other industry such falls in net income would be headline news,” said FUW spokesman Alan Morris.

“With CAP reform the level of support payments received by farmers will decline so it is particularly worrying to see the dependence of Welsh producers on subsidies.”

The newly published figures show that in 2002/03 on the average livestock unit direct subsidies amounted to 29% of total output and 179% of net farm income.

On LFA farms the corresponding figures were 43% and 251%, and on mixed farms direct support accounted for 28% of output and 380% of net farm income.

Bank borrowings by larger dairy units averaged £166,000 and 51% of them owed more than £100,000.

On average medium sized LFA units were in debt to their banks to the tune of £69,800 and 28% of them were borrowing over £100,000.

Large LFA units owed average of £147,900, with 53% borrowing more than £50,000.

Average bank debt for the whole sample ranged between £16,900 for small farms to £156,900 for big units,