28 November 2001
Virus delays NI farmers’ decisions

By FWi staff

NORTHERN IRELAND farmers delayed crucial decisions about their future while the foot-and-mouth crisis persisted, official figures suggest.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development June 2001 agricultural census shows little change in the number of farm businesses.

It records 29,818 businesses, almost the same number as in June 2000.

It is believed that during 2001 the foot-and-mouth outbreak may have delayed structural adjustments in the industry, says the report.

While there were only four cases of foot-and-mouth in Northern Ireland, for months producers lived under the shadow of the disease.

The number of active farms has fallen by an average of 1.8% per year over the past 5 years and by 1.5% per year over the past 10 years.

Numbers of farmers increased slightly – by less than 1% – but this was offset by an overall 3% shrinkage in the total labour force.

There was a 3% reduction in the total area of cereals; areas of wheat and winter barley fell by 18% and 47% respectively.

The area of spring barley increased by 9% while for the first time there was a significant area of forage maize – estimated at 1400 ha.

The area on which potatoes were grown was down 2%.

Cattle numbers were up one per cent, including a 4% rise in dairy cattle and a 2% fall in beef cattle.

Sheep and lamb numbers were down 8%, pigs were down 7% – including a 16% drop in herds – and poultry were down 7%.