EXPERTS HAVE questioned the reliability of DEFRA‘s labour statistics which appear to suggest that the rural exodus slowed in 2004.

An extra 13,100 workers joined the farming industry, according to DEFRA‘s figures, but there are signs that this conceals a worrying number of exits.

The statistics on labour were based on the June census and they show that despite the overall rise in farm employment, another 2200 full-time farmers left the industry.

And DEFRA itself warns that the census may have recorded one worker several times on different holdings.

Derrick Wilkinson, NFU chief economist, said that the results were unreliable. “It‘s not entirely clear what‘s going on from these figures,” he said.

“The type of information available from DEFRA is for British agriculture in the 1980s, not in 2000. As time changes we need to review the type of statistics.”

Mr Wilkinson said it would be nice to see more full-time jobs being created because good, well-educated young people would not be encouraged by an increase in part-time labour.

sam.fortescue@rbi.co.uk