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Background Information on Northern Ireland Society - Agriculture



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Text and Research: Fionnuala McKenna
Material is added to this site on a regular basis - information on this page may change

Agriculture in Northern Ireland
photograph of Silage Cutting photograph of Potato Crop photograph of four horses
photograph of sheep photograph of barley crop photograph of cattle grazing

The information below refers mainly to the 1990s.

  • Agriculture is an important industry in Northern Ireland. In 1998 it provided employment for approximately 60,000 people, and was worth more than £1 billion per year to the economy. In 1994, Northern Ireland derived a greater percentage of its GDP from agriculture than almost any other region in the UK (the one exception being East Anglia).

  • In the 1990s the number of farms in Northern Ireland decreased, whilst the size of farms actually increased. This trend was similar to the rest of Ireland, where smaller farmers were squeezed out of the market and the average farm grew to over 100 acres. A huge proportion (78.8%) of land in Northern Ireland was under cultivation for grazing, crops, forestry, and fruit. The principal crops produced were barley, potatoes, wheat and oats although a variety of others were also grown. Due to the climate in Northern Ireland, more vegetables than fruits were produced, although County Armagh, which lies to the south of Lough Neagh, was noted for its apple orchards.

  • Like the rest of the UK and Ireland, the agricultural industry in Northern Ireland was affected by the cattle disease BSE, but fortunately, not to the same extent. In the rest of the UK, 30 percent of cattle herds experienced at least one case of BSE, whilst in Northern Ireland only 5 percent of herds experienced at least one case of the disease.

  • Fishing was also an important industry in Northern Ireland, particularly in counties Antrim and Down. In 1998, almost twenty-five thousand tonnes of fish were landed at Northern Ireland ports, worth an estimated £20 million. The busiest harbour in the North of Ireland was Kilkeel in County Down, where an estimated nine thousand tonnes of fish were landed in 1998.

    Sources:
    The following tables provide further breakdowns of some of the agricultural statistics available for Northern Ireland. Much of this material has been derived from the Northern Ireland Annual Abstract of Statistics (1996), Regional Trends (1996) and the Irish Almanac and Yearbook of facts (1997).


    Number of Persons working on farms in Northern Ireland, 1991-1997

     

    1991

    1992

    1993

    1994

    1995

    1996

    1997

    Farmers, Partners, Directors (full-time)

    26.0

    26.0

    24.8

    24.6

    23.5

    22.7

    22.4

    Farmers, Partners, Directors (part-time)

    16.1

    16.5

    15.3

    16.5

    16.3

    17.2

    16.8

    All Farmers, Partners, Directors

    42.1

    42.4

    40.1

    41.1

    39.8

    39.9

    39.2

    Spouses of Farmers, Partners, Directors

    5.2

    4.4

    6.5

    6.2

    6.8

    6.8

    7.0

    Other full-time workers (male)

    3.8

    3.6

    3.4

    3.3

    3.2

    3.0

    2.7

    Other full-time workers (female)

    1.1

    1.0

    0.6

    0.4

    0.4

    0.4

    0.3

    Other part-time workers (male)

    2.4

    2.4

    2.6

    2.4

    2.5

    2.4

    2.4

    Other part-time workers (female)

    1.0

    1.0

    0.8

    0.8

    0.7

    0.7

    0.7

    Other casual workers (male)

    7.0

    7.2

    8.3

    8.2

    8.7

    8.3

    8.6

    Other casual workers (female)

    1.0

    0.9

    0.8

    0.8

    0.8

    0.9

    0.9

    All other workers

    16.3

    16.1

    16.4

    15.8

    16.3

    15.8

    15.6

    Labour Force

    63.6

    62.9

    6.3

    63.1

    63.0

    62.5

    61.9

    (Source: Northern Ireland Annual Abstract of Statistics, 1998, p.140)



    Number and Size of Farms by Area in Northern Ireland, 1994-1998

    Number of Farms (1994-1998):

    Number of Farms

    1994

    28,404

    1995

    27,937

    1996

    27,547

    1997

    32,118

    1998

    31,817

    Size of Farms (1998):

    Hectares:

    Number of Farms

    Hectares

    0.1 - 9.9

    7,837

    41,898

    10.0 - 19.9

    7,090

    103,401

    20.0 - 29.9

    4,871

    120,130

    30.0 - 49.9

    5,676

    219,589

    50.0 - 99.9

    4,719

    321,779

    100.0 +

    1,624

    261,573

    TOTAL

    31,817

    1,068,370

    (Source: Irish Almanac and Yearbook of Facts, 2000, p.260)



    Land under Cultivation in Northern Ireland, 1994-1998
    (1,000 Hectares)

     

    1994

    1995

    1996

    1997

    1998

    Total Agricultural Crops

    56.1

    54.9

    55.0

    56.6

    55.9

    Total Horticultural Crops

    3.3

    3.2

    3.2

    3.1

    3.2

    Total Grass

    813.0

    817.4

    819.3

    825.1

    830.6

    Grazing

    176.3

    170.9

    169.0

    164.1

    159.1

    Woods/Plantations

    8.2

    8.1

    8.2

    8.2

    8.2

    Other Land

    14.7

    13.2

    12.9

    11.8

    11.3

    Total Area

    1,071.6

    1,067.8

    1,067.6

    1,068.9

    1,068.4

    (Source: Irish Almanac and Yearbook of Facts, 2000, p.262)



    Earnings (£) and Hours of Agricultural Workers, 1987-1996

     

    1987

    1988

    1989

    1990

    1991

    1992

    1993

    1994

    1995

    1996

    Average weekly earnings ( per week)

    105.84

    112.90

    123.35

    130.86

    145.51

    147.11

    153.96

    168.53

    167.96

    193.82

    Average weekly hours

    41.91

    42.04

    42.17

    42.22

    42.44

    42.08

    43.09

    42.84

    42.63

    44.00

    Average hourly earnings ( per hour)

    2.53

    2.69

    2.93

    3.10

    3.43

    3.50

    3.57

    3.93

    3.94

    4.41

    (Source: Northern Ireland Annual Abstract of Statistics 2000, p.139)



    Livestock Figures in Northern Ireland, 1995-1998
    (thousand head)

     

    1995

    1996

    1997

    1998

    Total Cattle

    1,699.1

    1,759.3

    1,731

    1,767.3

    Total Sheep

    2,753.6

    2,753.2

    2,880.1

    2,986.6

    Total Pigs

    564.2

    565.2

    616.7

    653.4

    Total Poultry

    16,003.3

    15,889.5

    15,607.8

    15,170.6

    Total Goats

    3.8

    3.6

    3.5

    3.6

    Total Horses and Ponies

    9.6

    9.8

    9.9

    9.8

    (Source: Irish Almanac and Yearbook of Statistics, 2000, p.263)



    Weight and Estimated Value of Landed Fish in Northern Ireland, 1994-1998

    .

    Tonnes

    Value ()

    1994

    20,879.82

    18,009,460

    1996

    27,850.06

    19,409,389

    1998

    24,956.51

    20,243,214

    (Source: Irish Almanac and Yearbook of Statistics, 2000, p.268)


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