CONTEXTUAL INFORMATION – IRELAND
GDP per capita (USD) Population density Agriculture in GDP Agriculture in employment
31,432 55/km2 (2001) 3% (2003) 6.1% (2003)
source DAF source DAF
Land use (2003) Total area Forest area Total agricultural area Arable land Grassland
000 hectares 7,028 680 4,370.2 436.4 3,933.9
% of total area 100.0% 9.7% 62.2% 6.2% 56.0%
Source: Central Statistics Office
Ireland has a temperate climate. Temperatures are fairly uniform over the whole country and rainfall
is well distributed throughout the year. Ireland is dominated by pastoral farming. Different types of
farming activity are practised throughout the country. However, tillage and dairy production are principally
located in the east and south and beef production in the midlands and west. The main products are beef and
milk, which in 2003 accounted for 57% of the total value of agricultural output. Other commodities
produced in Ireland, and their contributions to agricultural output, are pigs (6%), sheep (4%), poultry (3%),
cereals (4%), root crops (4%), forage plants (10%) and fruit and vegetables (5%).
In 2002, the total number of farms in Ireland was 136,500 down from 223,400 in 1980. Almost all of
these are family owned and operated. In 2002, the average farm size was 32 ha. Farms in the south and east
are, on average, larger than those in the west and border regions. There has been a steady growth in the
number of part-time farmers in Ireland and an increased reliance by farmers on off-farm sources of income.
Almost 60% of farm household income now comes from non-farm sources, including off-farm
employment and social welfare. The prospects for farming are more difficult in the areas that have been
designated as Less Favoured Areas (LFAs); altogether these represent approximately 75% of the land area.
Agricultural policies and support to agriculture
Ireland became a member of the European Union (EU) in 1973, and is thus embraced by the EU's
Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which is based on the following three principles: (i) a common
market with common prices; (ii) community preference, and (iii) common financing. Market price support,
and area and headage payments are the main policy instruments. Market price support, where applied, is
provided through institutional prices, export subsidies, tariffs and tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) and is often
combined with production quotas or land set-aside. The Agenda 2000 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
reform package, which was to run from 2000 to 2006, entailed a gradual reduction of administered prices
for cereals, and for beef and veal, which were compensated for by direct payments. This has however been
overtaken by the reform which took place as part of the Mid Term Review of Agenda 2000. Ireland has
opted for full decoupling. As a result a Single Farm payment (SFP) will be introduced in 2005, which will
replace the majority of the direct payments under different schemes. This SFP will not be linked to
production. In 2003, Ireland’s farmers received total payments of 1.6 billion euros, of which 75% (1.2
billion euros) were financed from EU Funds (EAGGF). (Estimated from OECD PSE data and from EU
The EU rural development regulation of Agenda 2000 or "second pillar" of the CAP includes
accompanying measures such as agri environmental measures, early retirement schemes, forestry, and
payments to assist farmers in Less Favoured Areas (LFAs). These measures are co financed from EU funds
(EAGGF). Member States can draw from the list of available measures to design programmes that are
tailored to the specific conditions facing their rural areas. Agri-environmental measures allow payments to
be made in return for agri environmental commitments entered into by farmers, which go beyond good
farming practice. Other measures such as investment in agricultural holdings, setting up of young farmers,
training, investment aid for processing and marketing facilities for agricultural products, additional
assistance for forestry, promoting the adaptation and development of rural areas, are also in place under the
EU rural development regulation.
Support to agriculture : European Union
Payments based on historical entitlements
Payments based on area planted/animal numbers
Market Price Support, payments based on output and on input use
Source : OECD, PSE/CSE database 2004.
Note: The Secretariat estimates of the level of support to agriculture (Producer support estimate – PSE) for the EU as a whole and
not for single EU member countries.
The overarching environmental legislation in Ireland is the Protection of the Environment Act 2003
which gives effect to the EC Directive 96/61/EC on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC).
The Protection of the Environment Act amends existing legislation governing the licensing of certain
industrial and intensive agricultural activities that have the potential to cause significant environmental
Where there has been an increase in the intensity of agriculture this has impacted on the environment
leading to concerns about water quality, loss of biodiversity and soil degradation. General objectives of
agri-environmental policies in Ireland include reducing water pollution, protection of soil quality,
biodiversity and landscape.
As part of the changes under the CAP Mid Term Review cross compliance will be introduced in
Ireland in 2005 which will tie environmental requirements to receipt of the decoupled Single Farm
Payment (SFP). Since the SFP is decoupled from production a reduction in the number of animals is
anticipated which will further reduce the impact of farming on the environment.
Ireland’s most important agri-environmental measure is the Rural Environment Protection Scheme
(REPS) which is designed to reward farmers for carrying out their activities in an environmentally friendly
manner and to bring environmental improvements on existing farms. Objectives of the scheme include:
landscape protection, protecting wildlife habitats and endangered species, and extensive farming. At the
end of 2003 there were some 37,800 farmers participating in the REPS with approximately 33% of the
utilisable agricultural land being farmed according to its requirements.
Conversion to organic farming is also supported under the REPS. Currently 1,000 organic producers
with approximately 30,000 ha of land are either in conversion or have full status, with 80% engaged in the
production of beef or lamb. The Scheme of Grant Aid for the Development of the Organic Sector provides
investment assistance to organic operators for equipment and facilities for the production, preparation,
grading, packing and storage of organic products.
Under the Farm Waste Management Scheme grant aid is available to farmers for investments in storage
facilities for silage and agricultural wastes, animal housing and new equipment for the application of farm
waste. Additionally, income tax relief for capital expenditure on pollution control facilities is available to
farmers that operate nutrient management plans.
Regulatory measures are used to address pollution of water by chemicals, fertilisers and animal manures.
Regulatory measures are also used to control the registration and use of pesticides
In 2002 the payments provided to farms under the agri-environmental measures were €439 million
(27% of total payments to farmers). (Estimated from OECD PSE data and from EU data). For 2003 the
DAF estimate is €386 million
Key information sources
The Department of Food and Agriculture http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/
A Guide to Irish Agriculture and Food 2004
Annual Review and Outlook 2003/2004 for Agriculture and Food
Compendium of Irish Agricultural Statistics, 2004
Environmental Protection Agency www.epa.ie
Statistics on farm size and agricultural production