Defra latest stats on Agriculture in the UK (2016)

The annual report (published May 2017) in fulfilment of the requirement under the “Agriculture Act 1993 that Ministers publish an annual report on such matters relating to price support for agricultural produce as they consider relevant.” To be used so the intro explains as a basis for making policy:  “The Government will draw on this information when considering the policy issues, including proposals by the European Commission in respect to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the provision of agricultural support.”


Key Events

 On 23rd June 2016 UK voted in a referendum to leave the European Union (EU). Article 50 was triggered on 29 March 2017 to start the process of leaving the EU.

 UK farmers will continue to receive support through the Basic Payment Scheme and Rural Development Funding until we formally leave the EU and payments will then be matched by the UK government until 2020. The Countryside Stewardship Scheme introduced in 2015 continued into its second year.

 The weather for 2016 was fairly typical, leading to reasonable growing and harvest conditions. The majority of months were at least slightly warmer than average for the UK as a whole, most notably September and December. However, both April and November were around a degree cooler than average. Most places were within 10% of the yearly average for rainfall, with a slight tendency for eastern areas to be wetter and western areas drier. Sunshine was slightly above average generally. The best of the summer weather was experienced in late July, late August and early September.

Farm Structures

 The Utilised Agricultural Area (UAA) increased by 1.2% to 17.4 million hectares.

 The United Kingdom had a total area of 508 thousand hectares of land farmed organically, down from 521 thousand hectares in 2015.

 The cereal crops area increased by 1.0% to 3.1 million hectares. The area of oilseed crops planted decreased by 9.3% to 608 thousand hectares.

 The dairy herd remained almost unchanged at 1.9 million. Total pig numbers increased by 2.7% to 4.9 million. Sheep and lamb numbers increased by 1.8% to 33.9 million.

 The total labour force on commercial holdings has fallen by 2.1% to 466 thousand.

Incomes and productivity

 Total Income from Farming is estimated to be 7.5% lower, a fall of £292 million to £3,610 million in real terms.

 Gross value added at basic price, which identifies agriculture’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), fell by £517 million to £8,196 million. In real terms, a 5.9% decrease.

 Total factor productivity of the agriculture industry in the United Kingdom is estimated to have fallen by 2.3%. This is driven by a fall in overall levels of production combined with static volumes of inputs.

 Farm Business Income (FBI) varies greatly with over a quarter of UK farms failing to make a positive FBI whilst 16% of UK farms had a FBI of over £50,000.

 The weakening pound against the Euro and US dollar helped stabilise prices for both inputs and outputs. The average producer price of agricultural products fell slightly (0.5%) while the average price of agricultural inputs fell by 2.1%.

Commodities and intermediate consumption

 Harvested production of wheat was 13% lower at 14.4 million tonnes, while the value of production was 21% lower at £1.6 billion.

 The value of vegetable production increased by 20% to £1.5 billion with the majority of crops showing a year on year increase.

 The value of mutton and lamb increased by 3.0% to £1.16 billion where an increase of 5.7% in prices was offset by a decrease of 3.2% in the volume of production.

 The value of milk and milk products fell by 11% (£395 million) to £3.30 billion as the average farmgate milk price fell by 7.8%.

 The value of eggs fell by 12% to £603 million with increased production offset by a fall in price; the third consecutive annual fall in prices.

 The total cost of intermediate consumption (inputs) fell by £427 million to £14,953 million. Reduced animal feed and fertiliser costs were the main contributors to this fall.


 Between 2000 and 2015 application rates of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilisers to grassland have shown an overall decline.

 Between 2000 and 2015 the estimated soil nutrient balances for nitrogen and phosphorus have fallen by 21% and 47%, respectively. This represents a reduction in the surpluses of nutrients that can potentially be lost to the environment.

 Between 2000 and 2015 estimated agricultural emissions of nitrous oxide have fallen by 10%.

 Between 2000 and 2015 estimated agricultural emissions of methane have fallen by 11%.

 Between 2000 and 2014 estimated agricultural emissions of ammonia emissions have fallen by 12%.

 In 2015 the population of UK farmland birds was less than half of its 1970 level.


 The value of food, feed and drink exports increased by £1.6 billion (8.7%) to £20.1 billion, while the value of food, feed and drink imports increased by £2.5 billion (6.3%) to £42.6 billion.

 The trade gap in food, feed and drink widened by 4.2% to £22.5 billion.

Food chain

 In 2015, the agri-food sector in the UK accounted for a total estimated Gross Value Added (GVA) of £109 billion or 6.6% of national GVA, down from 6.7% in 2014. The non-residential catering sector increased 12%, followed by manufacturing at 6.4%.

 Total factor productivity of the UK food chain beyond the farmgate has risen by 0.5% between 2014 and 2015. Productivity in the wider economy has increased in 2015 by 1.3%. Benchmarking against a wider economy measure shows that the average annual growth in the food chain between 2006 and 2015 was 0.2% compared to 0.3% in the wider economy.

 Excluding the effect of price rises, consumers’ expenditure increased 2.6% in 2016 but remains 1.3% lower than at the start of the economic downturn in 2007. Expenditure on food eaten out increased 1.9% in 2016, whilst expenditure on household food increased 3.0%.

Animal Health

Avian influenza

 There were two cases of notifiable avian influenza (AI) in Dunfermline in January (low pathogenic AI (H5N1)) and in Lincolnshire in December (highly pathogenic AI (H5N8)). Both cases were contained to single sites. Restrictions were lifted after three weeks in Dunfermline and after one month in Lincolnshire, after preliminary cleansing and disinfection of the affected premises had been completed.

Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB)

 In 2016 the government introduced new legislation requiring farmers in the Low Risk Area (LRA) of England to arrange post-movement testing of cattle brought into their herds from the rest of England and from Wales, and a stricter TB testing regime for all herds affected by TB breakdowns in the High Risk Area of England (HRA). Licensed badger culling for bTB control purposes was rolled out to seven new areas of the HRA. The LRA of England (representing more than half of the land area and almost 40% of all its cattle herds) is on track to being officially recognised as free of the disease by the end of 2018.

 In Wales in 2016 it became default practice for two clear herd tests to be required before restrictions were lifted in order to increase the likelihood of removing all disease. There were moderate decreases in incidence and prevalence of bTB in Wales in 2016, driven by falls in the high incidence counties of Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire in the West.

 In Scotland there were 11 new confirmed TB breakdowns in 2016, which is consistent with another year of officially TB-free status. The “herd size” selection criteria for the risk based TB testing exemption policy was also increased from 20 to 50 animals with effect from 1 January 2017.

 In Northern Ireland, a new TB Testing Contract for Private Veterinary Practices commenced in 2016. This reduces costs to government and includes more robust procedures to improve the standard of testing through mandatory training and greater accountability for underperformance. This may have contributed to the increase in disease disclosure and herd incidence during 2016. Improvements to the targeting of animals for testing by the Interferon-gamma blood test were also introduced

The great quinoa debate: does supplying western markets with exotics deny local people their staples?

Chris Smaje analyses the furore created by an article by Joanna Blythman on the damaging effects of quinoa exports and suggests “we need social statisticians . . . . [to gather and analyse], data about social practices such as farming in order to be able to answer the kind of questions that [agricultural economists pose] and therefore to interrogate the often lazy claims of journalists, politicians and thinktanks in support of preconceived notions about social welfare. [We also]. . . . need philosophers (or at least thinkers) to pose deeper questions about social welfare than is provided by simplistic assumptions about market integration and economic benefit. We need a more nuanced understanding than current economic models typically provide about the benefits or otherwise of global market integration in the food system.”

UK research in agriculture: breakdown of gvt spending

The Countess Marr asked the question.  Lord De Mauley provided the Government’s answer. The figures — such as he had — to be found in yesterday’s Hansard (July 10), Column WA43

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the breakdown of spending by (1) the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and (2) the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, in each of (a) genetically modified (GM) crops; (b) non-GM agricultural biotechnology; (c) marker-assisted selection; (d) home-grown protein sources for livestock; (e) agroecology; and (f) organic farming, in the past five years.[HL1247]”

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): Over the last five years Defra has spent an average of £29m per annum on food and farming research out of a total of £400m spent by government, including research councils. However, it is not possible to provide a breakdown as requested. Agricultural biotechnology, marker-assisted selection and agroecology may all play a part in a variety of the research projects we undertake relating to farming systems.

Defra Farming and Food Brief: April 2013

Some interesting annual figures (milk prices and volumes, fertiliser costs, etc) in this Brief.

Summary as follows:

Fall in farm incomes

Total Income from Farming, is estimated to have fallen between 2011 and 2012 by 14 per cent (£737 million) in real terms to £4,704 million. The fall was due to changes in the Pound to Euro exchange rate and the impact of poor weather. Strong prices for some livestock were offset by higher input prices

Severe weather affecting the sheep sector

Heavy snowfall and drifting across Wales, Northern England and Scotland during late March has resulted in the additional deaths of thousands of livestock, especially sheep and lambs. The number of animal deaths due to the weather is still unclear. However, industry estimates expect additional losses attributable to the heavy snowfall to exceed 20,000 sheep and lambs

Fertiliser use continues to fall

Defra has published detailed evidence on the use of the nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potash on agricultural crops and grassland. These nutrients are vital for agricultural production but have environmental impacts. The rate of use of nitrogen on all tillage has remained relatively constant over the last 25 years at around 145 – 150 kg/ha but there have been substantial falls in the use of nitrogen on grassland (because of falling livestock numbers and improved efficiency of use of fertilisers and organic manures). The use of phosphate and potash on tillage crops has been declining since the late 1990’s.

Low domestic milk production

In March 2013, the provisional volume of wholesale milk delivered to dairies was 7.6 per cent lower than March last year at 1.1 billion litres, the lowest recorded level for March since 1995/96.

Increased imports of wheat

During February 2013, imports of wheat increased by 233 per cent as millers were unable to source quality milling wheat from the UK as a result of the poor domestic wheat harvest.