The total gross output for agriculture in Northern Ireland increased by 9% within one year reaching £2.43 billion in 2021, according to data published by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

This includes an 11% increase in value from the livestock sector, 34% increase in field crops while value output in horticulture dropped by 9% last year.

Dairy and cattle output

The dairy sector remains the largest contributor to the total value of gross output at £805 million in 2021 - increasing 20% within one year.

The annual average farm-gate milk price increased by 16% to 31.53p/L while the volume of raw milk produced increased by 3% to 2.5 billion litres.

The output value of cattle was 7% higher at £485 million in 2021 and the total number of animals slaughtered increased slightly (1.0%).

The average producer price for finished clean cattle stood at £3.83/kg while the price for cull animals was £2.70/kg - both 11% higher than their respective averages for 2020.

The average carcase weights for clean and cull animals were 0.5% higher and 0.6% lower respectively, which led to a 1.2% higher volume of meat produced in 2021. 

In addition to these changes, the DAERA also reported increases in the number of store cattle imported to Northern Ireland last year.

Sheep, pig and poultry

The value of output from sheep rose by 13% reaching £95 million in the previous year, with an average producer price of £5.35/kg, up 18% in 2021.

Volume of sheep meat produced and the number of slaughtered animals both decreased by 7%. The average carcass weight however, increased slightly within one year (0.5%) and marked 22kg in 2021.

The output value rose for both the poultry sector (+8%) and the egg sector (+4%) reaching £325 million and £125 million respectively. The pig sector saw a decline of 2% in output value standing at £209 million and 5% drop in producer price.

Prices for poultry and eggs rose by 8% and 1% respectively. Despite the decline affecting the pig industry, all sectors recorded an increase in production volumes; pigs (+4%,); eggs and poultry (+3%) compared to the previous year.

Field and horticulture output

Up 34% in 2021, the total output value for field crops - from two harvests across a calendar year - reached £84 million mainly due to higher grain prices and yields for grown cereal crops.

Cereal output increased by 50% standing at £47 million in value, whereas the value of potatoes fell slightly by 2% to £21 million. 

Recorded value output at £87 million in the horticulture sector was lower year on year for 2021 with mushrooms being the largest value contributor with an estimated output value of £30 million.

Payments and gross input

Direct payments (Basic Payment Scheme, Greening Payment and Young Farmers’ Payment) reached an estimated value of £308 million last year, representing an increase of 4% compared to 2020 payments.

Gross inputs went up 10% in value in 2021 reaching £1.72 billion of which 56% were accounted for by feedstuffs costs (+14%).

Fertiliser costs went up by 15% last year while a 8% drop in purchased volume and a 26% hike in the average price /tonne were reported.

Total lime purchases rose by 8%, with the result that total expenditure on fertilisers and lime increased by 16%, up to £96 million.

Machinery expenses also went up by 8% reaching £152 million in 2021, mainly as a result of an 18% price hike for fuel and oils.