7 April 2000

Full-time farmers to halve in 10 yrs

IRISH agriculture will in future be run by a hard core of commercial farmers, supported by a mass of part-timers earning the bulk of their income in off-farm occupations.

According to the recent Agri-Food 2010 report, the number of full-timers is set to drop from 44,000 to just 20,000 in the next 10 years, while part-time farmers will climb from 38,000 to 60,000.

This was described as "the reality of modern developed economies" by EU consumer commissioner David Byrne. "Agricultural productivity is such that more and more can be produced with fewer and fewer farmers," he said.

But Irish farm minister Joe Walsh said there had never been such good opportunities for finding alternative employment in the countryside. "Thanks to the overall economic performance and the trends towards the new technologies, the options are there as never before."

Irelands economic success did have a downside, however, with labour shortages pushing up the cost of employment, at a time when Ireland had suffered one of the biggest falls in farm income throughout the EU. &#42