22 March 2000
Farm suicides are a myth, says MP

A CONTROVERSIAL MP has accused the farming lobby of peddling a myth that more farmers have taken their lives as a result of the crisis in agriculture.

Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West, says figures show that the number of suicides is in fact lower than when incomes were at a peak.

“Of course there are farmers in serious difficulties, but I believe they have greatly exaggerated their case, and much of their case is based on distortions or plain untruths,” he told the Radio 4Farming Today programme.

“I realise that there is a crisis and these are very hard times for the farming industry, but [farmers have] been saying this for a number of years now.

“Theyve been forecasting a record number of bankruptcies, the value of land would collapse and theyve talked about a record number of suicides.

“None of those things have happened.

“In fact there have been fewer suicides in the last three years of crisis than there were at the time when farming incomes were among the highest in Europe.”

Mr Flynn said between 1988 and 1993 there were an average of 84 suicides a year, but from 1995 to 1998 the figure reduced to 68.

“Yet that myth is propagated in almost every farming programme I hear, and from politicians,” said Mr Flynn.

The MP also said that the number of farm bankruptcies had dropped to around 140-150 now, compared with more than 200 between 1993-95.

“Agriculture has no right to be treated any different way to any other industry.

“They cant be protected from market forces; there must be great changes in agriculture.”

Earlier this year, Mr Flynn provoked outrage when he said farm suicides were high because simply because farmers have easy access to shotguns.