1 in 4 working in Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing in Ireland live in Western Region

The WDC has just published the sixth of its ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ analysing employment data for the Western Region on different economic sectors.  The latest looks at Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing and two publications are available:

Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing is a complex sector which plays many economic, societal and environmental roles.  This analysis only examines direct employment of those whose main economic activity is working in the sector, as reported in the Census.  It does not include persons who farm part-time but have another ‘main’ job or are retired.  It includes people working on farms, fishing vessels, aquaculture farms, forestry and stables but not in agri-food processing.[1]

Of everyone working in Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing in Ireland, 25.5% of them live in the Western Region, far higher than the region’s 16.6% share of total national employment.  Of all economic sectors, Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing is where the Western Region accounts for its highest share of total national employment.

Employment in Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing

According to Census 2016, 22,733 people were employed in Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing in the Western Region and it is the region’s sixth largest employment sector.[2]  The restructuring of Ireland’s economy towards services activity and high value manufacturing, as well as intensification and increased agricultural productivity, has substantially reduced the significance of Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing’s as a source of full-time employment (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Percentage of total employment in Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing in Western Region and state, 1996-2016

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011; CSO, Census of Population 2006, Volume 7 – Principal Economic Status and Industries, Table C0713; CSO, Census of Population 2002, Volume 5 – Principal Economic Status and Industries, Table B0513; CSO, Census of Population 1996, Volume 5 – Principal Economic Status and Industries, Table A0513

The downward trend was reversed somewhat in 2011 as there was an increase in the number of people working in the sector between 2006 and 2011.  Massive construction job losses meant that some part-time farmers, who had been working in the building industry, reverted to full-time farming.  Also, job losses elsewhere in the economy increased the relative importance of this sector.  2016 saw a return to the downward trend.

This sector has consistently accounted for a higher share of employment in the region than nationally over the past two decades.  While the region and state followed similar patterns, the gap narrowed.  In 1996 the share of total employment accounted for by Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing in the region was 6.4 percentage points higher than in the state (15.6% compared with 9.2%) by 2016 the gap had narrowed to 2.4 percentage points (6.8% compared with 4.4%).

At a county level, in 2016 Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing was most important in Roscommon (9%), followed closely by Leitrim (8.6%) and Mayo (8.5%).  All other western counties have around 7% working in the sector and are considerably above the national average.[1]

Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing sub-sectors

Census data on employment in Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing is sub-divided into six separate activities.  For ease of interpretation, these have been combined here into four sub-sectors.  ‘Animals & Mixed Farming’ dominates and accounts for 88.6% of total employment in the sector in the region, a notably higher share than nationally (82.6%) (Fig. 2).  This sub-sector dominates in all counties, particularly Clare and Sligo and is least important for Donegal.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing employment in each sub-sector in Western Region and state, 2016

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011.
Due to the low numbers involved, Galway City is not included in the chart, but is included in the Western Region total.

‘Tillage, Horseracing & Other Farming’ accounts for a small share in the region (5.1%), less than half its share nationally (12.6%), reflecting the Western Region’s reliance on cattle and sheep farming.  ‘Forestry & Logging’ is the smallest in the region (2.6%).  At 6.4%, Leitrim is where ‘Forestry & Logging’ is most important to employment.

The role of ‘Fishing & Aquaculture’ in Donegal’s economy is clear.  It accounts for 14.3% of total Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing employment in the county (567 people) with Killybegs likely the main location.  Galway County (2.4%) and Mayo (2.2%) are the only other western counties with a notable share working in this activity.  The Western Region makes a very substantial contribution to this sector and is home to 43% of national ‘Fishing & Aquaculture’ jobs.[1]

Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing related occupations

People working in this sector are engaged in a range of different occupations.  In 2016, there were 24,014 people in the Western Region who reported themselves with an Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing related occupation[2] (Table 1).

The vast majority (86.9% in the Western Region) of those in Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing related occupations are farmers.[3]  At 20,880, farmers are the Western Region’s second largest single occupational group.  They dominate in all counties, most strongly Clare, Sligo, Roscommon and Galway County.  Donegal is where they account for their smallest share (76.2%) due to the strength of the fishing industry.

Table 1: Percentage in Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing related occupations in Western Region and state, 2016

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB049.
Due to the low numbers involved (181 in total) Galway City is not included in the table but is included in the Western Region total.

The next largest is ‘Elementary Agricultural’ which includes unskilled occupations.  These are most important in Donegal (11.2%), with a high proportion of both farm and fishing workers.  Leitrim has the next highest share (9.3%) mainly due to forestry workers.  ‘Other Skilled Agricultural & Related Trades’ is also most important in Donegal is (11.8%) almost entirely due to skilled fishing trades, Galway County is next highest (4.3%) and for the same reason.

Conclusion

Despite declines, Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing continues to play a larger role in the region’s labour market and any changes in the sector would have a greater employment impact in the region and its rural areas in particular.  The sector is highly exposed to Brexit and it is vital that the issues and needs of this sector in the Western Region, characterised by smaller scale operations, is addressed in Brexit adaptation efforts.

The Western Region plays a strategic role in Ireland’s Fishing & Aquaculture sector.  Ireland’s seafood sector has shown strong recent growth, predominantly export-led.  Brexit however poses many challenges and addressing these will be vital to future jobs growth in this sector.  The region’s forestry resource is a valuable asset, supplying the construction industry with quality product.  The region is also well placed to further develop a wood energy sector using by-products to stimulate local job creation as well as increase renewable energy use.

Future changes in the pattern and activities carried out by the Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing sector, as a result of climate change mitigation and transition to a low carbon economy, could have significant positive and/or negative impacts on employment.  The nature and scale of such impacts is currently unclear however and will be one of the most important factors influencing this sector’s long term future.

For more, download Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing Employment in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile and WDC Insights: Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing Employment in the Western Region here

Pauline White

 

[1] This regional strength is also reflected in the region’s 47.6% share of national employment in seafood processing, see WDC (2019), Industry in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile

[2] This differs from the number working in the sector because unemployed persons are included in occupations data (under their last employment) but not in employment data, some people working in these occupations may work in another sector (e.g. a horticulturalist working for a landscaping company) and some people working in this sector may have different occupations (e.g. a bookkeeper at an aquaculture farm).

[3] See this WDC Insights blogpost ‘How many farmers are in the Western Region?’ for a discussion of different definitions and ways to measure the number of ‘farmers’.

[1] At 0.5% of total employment (163 people), Galway City is an exception.  Given the low numbers involved, Galway City will be excluded from much of the following analysis but it is included in the figures for the Western Region as a whole.

[1] Agri-food processing forms part of the Industry sector and was examined in a previous Regional Sectoral Profile, WDC (2019), Industry in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile https://www.wdc.ie/publications/reports-and-papers/

[2] These are people who recorded in the Census that their main employment was in this sector.  Therefore someone who farms/fishes part-time but has another job (which they recorded as their ‘main’ employment) would not be included.

Payments and income from farming in the Western Region

As discussed in the last blog post on farmers in the Western Region, agriculture is an important sector of Irish economy and particularly important to the rural economy and society.  In this post different measures of payments and income are examined using three different sources.  Data on CAP beneficiaries is available at county level, showing how much is received in each county, while the recently published Revenue data for 2016 provides information on average Farming Income and Gross Income for the ‘farming cases’.  Finally, the National Farm Survey, conducted by Teagasc, provides detailed information on farming income.

Each of these sources is measuring different things for different purposes so it is useful to compare them to add to our understanding of farming in the Western Region.

 

Payments from the CAP.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) contributes a significant amount to the local economy.  In 2016 more than €525m was received from the CAP by the 54,215 beneficiaries in the Western Region (Table 1) with an average of €9,689 per recipient in the Western Region.

Table 1: CAP beneficiaries in the Western Region in 2016

Source: DAFM CAP Beneficiaries Database

Galway (€ 135m) and Mayo (€105m) had the highest receipts and also had the highest numbers of recipients, while Leitrim (€35m) and Sligo (€37m) had the lowest total receipts.  However, when the average receipt is considered (Figure 1) the pattern is different.

Figure 1: Average received by CAP beneficiaries in the Western Region

Source: DAFM CAP Beneficiaries Database 2016

Average receipts in 2016 were highest in Clare (€10,945), Galway (€10,292), and Roscommon (€10,050), but these were still among the lowest in the country (Clare has the 17th highest average receipt, and average receipts in Galway and Roscommon were 20th and 21st of the 26 counties). The four lowest average payments in the country were in the Western Region with Sligo the lowest in the country.  In contrast, the highest average receipts were in Dublin (€19,062 and which has a very small number of beneficiaries (867)) and in the South East with €17,806 the average in Waterford, €17,205 the average in Kilkenny and €16,194 the average in Carlow.

The very significant different in receipts between the Western Region and the South East reflect both farm size, and the enterprise type.

 

Farm Incomes- Revenue Data

In addition to information about numbers of farming cases, data is available from Revenue for both average Gross income and average Farming Income.   The data for Revenue cases from farming is from the Revenue Statistics and Economic Research Branch publication ‘The Farming Sector in Ireland: A Profile of Revenue Data’ available here.

In 2016 nationally there were 137,109 ‘farmer’ cases with an average Farming Income of €21,952.  There were 40,709 ‘farmer’ cases in the Western Region with an average Farming Income of €13,338.  Data for each of the Western Region counties is shown in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2: Average Farm Income by county- Revenue data

Source: The farming sector in Ireland: A profile from Revenue data, 2016 data, published 2018

The lowest average Farm Income is in Leitrim (€10,679), while the highest was in Clare (€16,701), but the seven Western Region counties are the seven counties with the lowest average Farm Income nationally.  Waterford has the highest average Farm Income (€35,026), followed by Kilkenny (€32,408) and Kildare (€32,292)

Interestingly, for farmer cases the Revenue also provides information about the average Gross income.  This includes income from other sources (the two most significant of these are PAYE income from employment and income from other business sources). It therefore includes income from off farm work.  It should be remembered that where couples are jointly assessed this includes the earnings of both.

Figure 3: Average Gross Income and average Farm Income in Western Region counties –revenue data

Source: The farming sector in Ireland: A profile from Revenue data, 2016 data, published 2018

Non farm income is very significant in the Western Region, accounting for most of the income in the farming cases in the Western Region indicating the importance of off farm employment in farming households.

The National Farm Survey

The final source of data on farm income is the National Farm Survey (NFS) which has been conducted by Teagasc on an annual basis since 1972.  The survey is operated as part of the Farm Accountancy Data Network of the EU and fulfils Ireland’s statutory obligation to provide data on farm output, costs and income to the European Commission. A random, nationally representative sample is selected annually in conjunction with the Central Statistics Office (CSO).  In 2016 the sample of 861 farms which represented 84,736 farms nationally.  Pig and Poultry farms are not included in the survey.

Data from the NFS is not available at county level, but Figure 4 below shows the Family Farm Income[1] for 2016 for each of the NUTS 3 regions.

Figure 4: National Farm Survey Family Farm Income by Region, 2016

Source: Teagasc, 2017, National Farm Survey 2016

The Border and the West regions, which account for six of the seven Western Region counties have the lowest Family Farm Income in 2016.  Clare is part of the Mid West region.

Comparing the data.

As Family Farm Income from the National Farm Survey is not available at county level, it is useful to compare the data on CAP beneficiaries and from Revenue tax cases at regional level.  Figure 5 shows the three different payment and income measures for the NUTS 3 regions.

In most regions, except the Border (and it should be noted the NFS does not include pigs and poultry which are concentrated in the Region) the Family Farm Income is the highest figure, while the average Farm Income for Revenue is lower.  As expected, given that it is only one of the elements of farm income, CAP receipts are lower than either income figure.

Figure 5: DAFM receipts, Revenue average Farm Income and NFS Family Farm Income 2016 by Region

Source: Teagasc National Farm Survey, 2016; The farming sector in Ireland: A profile from Revenue data, 2016 data, published 2018; DAFM CAP Beneficiaries Database2016

 

In the Border, Midland and the West Region in particular, the CAP receipts are a higher proportion of income figures, indicating the greater contribution of the subsidies to income in these regions.

Conclusions

While these three different measures are derived from different sources they are all consistent.  The West and Border have lowest income and lowest average CAP benefit as well as lower taxable income from farming.  The pattern of farming is different in these regions, with different enterprise types, smaller farm sizes and greater reliance on off farm income.  Yet farming in these regions is integral to their rural economy, the rural landscape and CAP payments and their multipliers make a significant contribution the local economy.  These are all important considerations when negotiating the next CAP.

 

 

Helen McHenry

[1] Family Farm Income represents the return from farming for the farm family to their labour, land and capital. It does not include non-farm income.  See here for more information.