22 December 2000

UK incomes at bottom of EU league

FARM incomes in the UK continue to languish at the bottom of the EU league table, according to latest figures from Brussels statistics agency, Eurostat.

The drop during 2000 is put at 11% and follows declines of 2% and 16% in each of the past two years. This puts UK farm income at just 65% of the level it was in 1995, fully 10% lower than any other member state.

"Currency remains the overriding factor," said NFU chief economist, Siôn Roberts. "It is clear that the euro-zone countries have all done better. While depressed commodity prices affect everyone, only the UK is hit by a strong currency."

The NFU would be pressing again for agrimoney compensation in 2001, he added. There would be a package available for beef and sheep producers, to make good the drop in livestock premiums, and another sum for the fall in prices due to the stronger £ during 2000. This would be of particular benefit for milk producers, if government could be persuaded to apply for it before the Apr 30 deadline.

"But the amount of money available gets less each year and will go nowhere near meeting the loss of income," said Mr Roberts. The only other countries seeing incomes fall this year were Italy, Austria and Portugal, though all of these were at a lesser rate than the UK.

Overall, farm incomes climbed by 1.3% for the EU of 15 member states, despite a significant jump in energy costs. "This is mainly due to the continued reduction in the volume of agricultural labour," said Eurostat. &#42