Farm incomes rise by 15% despite foot-and-mouth

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The Independent Online

British farmers will see their incomes increase by 15 per cent this year despite the enormous damage wrought by the foot-and-mouth epidemic, according to official estimates published yesterday.

British farmers will see their incomes increase by 15 per cent this year despite the enormous damage wrought by the foot-and-mouth epidemic, according to official estimates published yesterday.

The figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will stun farmers still devastated by the crisis by revealing that the total income from the industry is expected to reach £1.8bn this year, compared with £1.57bn in 2000. The figure does not include compensation payments for foot-and-mouth.

But the improvement reflects little more than the depths of poverty to which British agriculture has sunk since 1995, when the average farmer earned £25,400 a year and the total income was £6.2bn. The average income this year is forecast to be £8,267.

The misfortune of livestock farmers in 2001 has been matched by the experience of the arable sector, which suffered a bad harvest because of heavy rain in autumn 2000.

The National Farmers' Union said it was optimistic that theslump in incomes had bottomed out and predicted further recovery next year.

Martin Haworth, the policy director of the NFU, added: "Incomes have been going down since 1996 and if you compare today's figures with 1996 we are still way down."

Yesterday there was further cause for optimism as the last remaining area in Britain classified as "infected" with foot-and-mouth disease was downgraded. An isolated area south of Penrith, Cumbria, was reclassified as "high risk".

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