Low wages leave many farmers below poverty line

Northern Ireland farmers are still living below the poverty line despite watching their profits increase by 64 per cent on average.

This is the second year in a row that farmers' incomes have risen and the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) has said that the average farmer will make £7000 this year. Two years ago, that figure sat at £3800 a year.

In stark contrast, the minimum wage for school leavers would offer an income of £8,500 a year based on a 40-hour week. Similarly, although the National Minimum Wage is £4.20 per hour, the farmer can expect an hourly rate of £2.79 in that same 40-hour week.

The figures were welcomed by the UFU and by the government. Many pointed to Northern Ireland's approach to the foot-and-mouth crisis as the main reason for greater confidence in the agriculture industry.

Agriculture Minister Bríd Rodgers said: "The significant rise in agricultural income is a very welcome respite from the serious difficulties faced by the agricultural industry in Northern Ireland in recent years. This is the first substantial improvement in income since 1995 and restores income to the levels experienced in the early 1990s."

Also giving a boost to farming in the north, was the news that the 20-day rule on livestock movements are to be relaxed. Scotland will initially relax the rule in mid-February and UFU believes that similar proposals will emerge here at the same time. (GMcG)

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