Beleaguered dairy farmers see incomes fall by 49%

English dairy farmers continue to see falls in their incomes, according to the latest DEFRA figures.

English dairy farmers continue to see falls in their incomes, according to the latest DEFRA figures. - Credit: Su Anderson

Beleaguered dairy and poultry farmers continue to be hit by falling prices, but other farming sectors are expected to see incomes rise after a difficult 2015/16, according to official figures.

The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said average incomes on dairy farms are expected to fall by just under 50% in 2016/17 to £22,500 as farmers struggle with a combination of lower milk prices and reduced production.

In the UK, average farm gate milk prices were around 4% lower in the period from March to December 2016 compared to the previous year - although there were wide variations.

The income estimates include payments that dairy farmers are expected to receive under the EU Milk Reduction Fund.

Meanwhile, poultry farmers are expected to see their incomes fall by 31% to £74,000, with a fall in egg prices and higher feed costs only partially offset by higher production.

Dairy farmers have already seen their incomes fall by 49% in 2015/16 to an average of £42,300, while the poultry sector saw its income in 2015/16 drop by 16% to £106,800.

The picture looks rosier for other farming sectors this year, with cereal farming, general cropping, pigs, grazing livestock and mixed enterprises all seeing rises.

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But farmers are still feeling the impact of an unpredictable and volatile market place, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has warned.

NFU President Meurig Raymond said while many sectors had seen improved fortunes – mainly due to the falling value of the pound – the wider industry was suffering from sharp rises in farm inputs, such as for feed, fertilisers and machinery.

“It is good news that many sectors are currently seeing improved commodity prices. However, for all sectors these figures can quickly change and steep reductions in the dairy and poultry sectors only go to emphasise that farmers are in an extremely volatile sector,” he said.

“Looking ahead, this uncertainty shows no sign of abating and there will be many challenges ahead as Brexit negotiations begin. With that in mind, I am calling on the government to ensure it can introduce a domestic agricultural policy which helps build a more profitable farming industry.”