22 March 1996

Report reveals big variation in UKearnings

By Philip Clarke

NET earnings have fluctuated widely between sectors and countries this season, according to MAFFs publication Farm Incomes in the UK, out this week.

In aggregate terms the booklet confirms the 26% increase in 1995 UK farming income, announced earlier this year at £5.04bn.

But within that total Scottish farmers saw a 40% rise, compared with 27% for the English, 8% for the Northern Irish and just 3% for the Welsh. This partly reflects the greater contribution of arable crops in the first two countries.

The publication also gives details of net farm income by farm type. Using indices of net farm income for 1995/96, it is estimated that English dairy farmers have achieved a 10% rise in the current season to an average £33,300, largely due to the higher milk price after deregulation.

But Welsh dairy units have been static at £22,000, while Scottish dairymen even suffered a slight decrease to £28,900.

According to Jim Ward, of Savills Agricultural Research, the Welsh performance probably reflects the greater proportion of dairy farmers signed up to Milk Marque. Meanwhile their English counterparts have enjoyed more varied competition for their milk and with it premium prices.

Scottish farmers have also suffered from the more lacklustre performance of their co-ops, Scottish Milk and Aberdeen Milk, which have languished near the bottom of most milk price tables.

The Scottish figures are also influenced by the fact that the previous years figures (1994/95) included income from the old Scottish MMB, which used to be the best payer in the UK.

All regions showed higher net farm income for livestock farms, both upland and lowland, though English units still only averaged £7900 in the lowlands. Increased subsidies, lower scalebacks and higher prices all contributed.

The most marked rise has been on cereal farms, due to a 40% lift in area payments and high grain prices. English cereal farms went from £30,400 to £43,000, while Scottish farms went from £24,400 to £32,500.

But in general cropping, England and Scotland are heading in opposite directions. The Scots are predicting a 32% drop to £40,000, while the English should enjoy a 10% rise to £61,700.

According to Scottish Office officials, this is because general cropping farms north of the border are dominated by potatoes, which have dropped dramatically in price since July 1995. &#42