Farm numbers down a fifth since early nineties

The number of farms in Ireland has dropped more than 20% since the early 1990s, revealing a sharp decline in Ireland’s traditional industry.

There were just over 170,000 working farms in 1991, compared with 132,700 in June 2005, the Central Statistics Office said today.

This marks an average fall of 2,700 a year.

Despite the reduction, farm sizes have increased on average from 31.4 hectares in 2000 to 31.8 hectares in 2005.

The Irish Farming Association (IFA) said that while some structural improvement was taking place, the average size of 32 hectares was too small to provide farmers with an adequate income.

Padraig Walshe, IFA president, said: “A key policy priority for IFA is to build farm production capacity through increased scale and less fragmentation.

“I acknowledge progress made in the 2007 Budget in relation to tax incentives for land leasing and stamp duty relief to promote farm consolidation,” he said.

According to the CSO’s farm structure survey, there were 247,700 family and regular non-family workers engaged in farming in 2005, a drop of 4% on the 2000 figure of 257,900.

The biggest decline was experienced by the border, midlands and western regions.

The biggest farms are in the south east.

Specialist beef production was the most common type of farming.

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