HC Deb 30 January 1981 vol 997 cc524-5W
Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how farm costs in Northern Ireland compare with those in Great Britain; to what extent farm incomes have declined since 1978 in Northern Ireland and Great Britain, respectively; whether he will give separate figures for milk and pig producers, respectively; and whether he will make a statement about the special difficulties of agriculture in the Province.

Mr. Adam Butler

Apart from cereals for animal feedingstuffs, which are £12–£14 per tonne dearer, and electricity, which is about 15 per cent. more costly in Northern Ireland, farm costs in Great Britain and Northern Ireland are similar.

The aggregate net income of farming in Northern Ireland fell by 47 per cent. from 1978 to 1979 and is estimated to have fallen by a further 60 per cent. or more from 1979 to 1980. There are no separate figures available for Great Britain, but corresponding figures for the United Kingdom as a whole are 7 per cent. and about 10 per cent.

Changes in net farm income between 1978–79 and 1979–80 are given in current terms in the table below for "Specialist" and "Mainly" dairy farms in each country of the United Kingdom and for "Pig and Poultry" farms in England and Northern Ireland only. Data are not available for specialist pig farms.

Changes in Net Farm Incomes between 1978–79 and 1979–80 in Current Terms
Type of Farm England per cent. Wales per cent. Scotland per cent. Northern Ireland per cent.
Specialist Dairy -21 -18 -46 -58
Mainly* Dairy -25 -31 -56 -91
Pig and Poultry -18 N/A N/A -65
*"General" Dairy farms in Scotland.

Definitions and further details of the samples on which these data are based are given in table 24 of the "Annual Review of Agriculture" White Paper (Cmnd 8132) of 21 January 1981.

Information is still being collected for the current (1980–81) year but a further decline in net farm income is expected in each of these farm types in all regions.

Following his recent meeting with the leaders of the Ulster Farmers Union, my right hon. Friend is considering further the problems of low incomes in the industry.

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