Welsh dairy farmer incomes slashed

By Farmers Weekly staff

DAIRY farmers in Wales suffered massive cuts in net farm income in the last accounting year, according to latest figures from the Welsh Institute of Rural Studies at Aberystwyth.

Falling milk prices and rising costs hit producers in all areas, though lowland regions were particularly badly affected

Here, average net farm income (NFI) in 1998/99 slumped by 11,600 to just over 15,500, a fall of 43%.

Hill and upland farms recorded a similar drop, with each business making just under 10,000.

In both areas, large farms suffered the biggest cuts, with incomes nosediving by over 24,000.

Output values fell 5% compared with the previous year in the hills, while input spend rose 4%, according to the report.

And, in the lowlands, output value dropped twice as much, though costs were trimmed by 2%.

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Bruton Knowles

“In both groups, it was noted that significant numbers of producers continued to leave the sector in 1998/99, mostly in the small farm categories,” says the report.

The reason is clear – small lowland dairy farms achieved a NFI of just 2300, a 72% fall on the year.

Small farms struggled in other sectors, too. Lowland cattle and sheep farms suffered losses for the second consecutive year, with the average NFI of -4000 almost double the previous years loss. Medium sized units also fell into the red, by 1300.

On small upland cattle and sheep farms, NFI fell by over 2000 to end up 500 in the red.

Meanwhile, Yorkshire farmers are now trying to survive on 21 a week, according to a report produced by Askham Bryan college, near York.

It paints a bleak picture of the state of agriculture in the county, showing that average net farm income collapsed by almost 90%, from an average of 11,400 a year in 1997-98 to 1100 in l998-99.

Every livestock sector except beef showed a decline, with pig farmers the worst hit. Output fell 34% on the previous year.

The report shows that wheat and barley output dropped by 35% since 1995 and oilseed rape by 43% since its peak in 1996.

The only major crop to show an increase in output – for the second year in succession – was potatoes.

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