Insight into Northern Ireland farm incomes

Northern Ireland outdoor sheep sale.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has published the first (provisional) estimate for farm incomes in 2016. Revisions have been made to previous years. 

Provisional figures indicate that the ‘Total Income from Farming’ (TIFF) in Northern Ireland rose by 22% in 2016 (21% in real terms) to £244million from £199million in 2015.

TIFF represents the return on own labour, management input and own capital invested for all those with an entrepreneurial involvement in farming.


Total Gross Output for agriculture in Northern Ireland was unchanged at £1.76billion in 2016. There was a 1% increase in the value of output from the livestock sector, which was offset by a combination of a 13% fall in horticulture plus a 2% reduction in field crops.

Dairying remained the largest contributor to the total value of Gross Output despite falling a further 6% to £452million in 2016. The annual average farm-gate milk price and the volume of raw milk produced in Northern Ireland both fell by 3% in 2016 to 20.2 pence per litre and 2.2 billion litres respectively.

The output value of cattle was 6% higher at £425 million in 2016. The total number of animals slaughtered increased by 7% in 2016, but with average carcase weights remaining unchanged from 2015, the volume of meat produced also increased by 7%. The average producer price for finished clean cattle was £3.19 per kilogram in 2016 while the average producer price for cull animals was £2.16

The value of output from sheep increased by 15% to £73million in 2016. This increase was a combination of a 14% increase in the producer price to £3.91 per kg and a 2% increase in the number of lambs & hoggets slaughtered. The total volume of sheep-meat produced was marginally lower to 2015 because of a reduction in the average carcase weight to 22 kilograms.

There were increases in the values of output in two of the three intensive livestock sectors during 2016, with the pig sector improving by 6% to £122 million and the egg sector growing by a further 9% to £97million. The value of poultry output reduced by 1% to £246million. All three sectors recorded an increase in production volumes, with eggs up by 10%, pigs up by 7% and poultry up by 4%, compared with the previous year. The producer prices in the poultry and pig sectors fell by 4% and 1%, respectively, whereas the producer price for eggs remained unchanged.

The total output value for field crops decreased by 2% in 2016 to £57 million. This was as a result of reductions in the volume produced for barley and other crops because of the adverse impacts of weather on yields. The value of output of potatoes in 2016 rose by 17% to £20million. This was due to changes in the volume of stock carried forward and an increase in the producer price which was partly offset by a reduction in the volume of potatoes produced. The value of output for wheat decreased by 5% to £8million and the output value of barley fell by 9% to £17million.

The value of output recorded in the Horticulture sector was also down year on year for 2016, by 13%, at £104million. This was driven by volume decreases in the mushroom, fruit and vegetables sectors of 21%, 13% and 14%, respectively. The Mushroom sector is the largest of these sectors by value, with an output of £53million.

The estimated value of the 2016 direct subsidies (Basic, Greening and Young Farmer payments) was £276million, representing an increase of 18%, when compared with the 2015 payments. This was due to the more favourable exchange rate between Sterling and the Euro.

The total value of Gross Inputs decreased by 2% in 2016, to £1.35billion. Feedstuff costs, which accounted for 53% of the total Gross Input estimate, reduced by 2% to £716 million in 2016. There was a 3% decrease in the volume of feedstuffs purchased but a 1% increase in the average price paid per tonne.

The total cost of fertilisers in 2016 fell by 7% as a result of a 16% reduction in the average price paid per tonne which was partly offset by an 11% increase in the volume purchased. There was also a reduction in total lime purchases, with the result that total expenditure on fertilisers and lime fell to £69million.

Total machinery expenses decreased by 7% to £129million in 2016, as a result of an 11% reduction in the cost of fuel and oils. This is in line with the global commodity price during the year.

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