Ulster Unionist Party Leader Robin Swann MLA has welcomed the revelation that the Total Income from Farming (TIFF) in Northern Ireland rose by 87% (82% in real terms) from £253million in 2016 to £473million in 2017.
Robin Swann said:
“These figures are very welcome and they will come as major relief for an industry that was until recently still reeling from a series of major year-on-year reduction in incomes.
“Whilst an increase of over 80% does sound impressive, we need to remember that 2016 was an incredibly low base to start from. I would caution that even with 2017’s strong performance, incomes from farming will likely remain volatile for some time.
“The industry is still facing a number of acute challenges. The larger retailers and processors still hold a monopoly and can determine a profit or loss on a whim. Last year’s weather was atrocious with millions of pounds worth of crops destroyed and farmers forced into housing livestock far earlier than usual. There remains an imminent threat of a fodder shortage later in the spring.
“Finally, agriculture potentially has the most to lose from a bungled Brexit deal and inadequate new trade arrangements. A report from the House of Lords last July said – ‘the greatest threat to farm animal welfare standards post-Brexit would come from UK farmers competing against cheap, imported food from countries that produce to lower standards than the UK.’
“Despite that warning we are now little more than a year away from the UK leaving the European Union and major ambiguity remains, especially on the key point of future-trade arrangements.
“This is a crucially important time for the future of UK agriculture. Decisions taken now and over the next 12-15 months will have a direct impact on the future of entire generations of farming families. So whilst last year’s increase in income was welcome, I fear that the industry will still have to wait sometime for longer-term stability.”