9 August 2002

10% in NI want to call it a day

ALMOST 10% of farmers in Northern Ireland expect to quit the industry in the next two years, while increasing numbers are looking to off-farm employment and diversification as a way of supplementing their income.

Those are among the key findings of a big social survey of farming families in Northern Ireland conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The study of 3000 farming households – about 10% of the provinces total – found that one-third of farmers already work off-farm, including 24% who do so full-time.

Another 5% said they were looking for work away from farming, and a further 27% said they might do so if returns did not improve. "Jobs in the trades and driving sectors were most commonly sought by males, and in the clerical and personal service sectors by females," says the report.

An estimated 15% of farms in Northern Ireland, or 3930, already have a diversification activity, with almost 2000 more persons thinking about setting up a new venture.

Agricultural contracting was the most common activity among those already diversifying, while tourism and recreation were the most popular with those thinking about starting a new venture. Novel crops, horse breeding, organic production and letting buildings also featured.

The survey also reveals that 40% of farm households have a computer, though only 14% are used for business records and just 11% for internet access for farm purposes.

Farm accidents result in the loss of 140 person-years annually in Northern Ireland, with 930 accidents reported last year. &#42