Changing Structure of Farming Outlined
30 March 2004
The proportion of the workforce employed in agriculture fell from 14% in 1991 to 5% in 2002, a period of unprecedented growth in employment in Ireland.
Caroline Crowley, a Teagasc research scientist based at NUI Maynooth, told the Teagasc Rural Development Conference in Tullamore that the 1990s were characterised by major reforms of EU farm policy and growth of almost 60% in the number of people at work. At the same time, the number of people employed in agriculture fell by 40%.
“Between 1990 and 2002, income from agriculture grew by 25% compared with a 200% increase in non-agricultural wages, salaries and pensions. This provides an indication of the changes which took place in agriculture,” she said.
She said that a decline of 17% in the number of farms was accompanied by an increase of over 20% in average farm size. The average size of farm is now almost 32 hectares (80 acres).
“The number of farms with less than 20 hectares fell by 46% while those with more than 50 hectares rose by 23%. The largest farms are in the south and east. Waterford, with an average of 45 hectares, has the largest farms in the country.”
Mayo and Monaghan have the smallest farm size, with an average of less than 22 hectares. However, Mayo is one of the counties that has shown the largest increase in farm size. Other counties with relatively large increases are Galway, Leitrim and Donegal,” she said.
She said that while farming remains a mainstay of the rural economy the number of farmers relying on farming as their sole source of income has fallen from 74% in the early 1990s to 56% in the early 2000s.
“A noteworthy development is the low proportion of sole occupation farmers in parts of Meath and Kildare, reflecting the labour market conditions in the Dublin area. Some of these areas showed a decline of almost 50% in the number of sole occupation farmers during the past decade,” she said.
Caroline Crowley said that although farm size has increased overall labour input on farms has fallen by one third. The highest labour input is on farms in the south and east.
Click here for the proceedings from the Rural Development Conference 2004.