Defra’s first estimates of the UK’s total income from farming (TIFF) for calendar year 2020 show that poor cropping and diversified enterprise returns more than offset higher livestock returns.

The Department estimates 2020 TIFF at £4.12 billion, a fall of £768 million or 15.7% from 2019 and the lowest level since 2016 in real terms. Agriculture’s 2020 contribution to the UK economy, measured as Gross Value Added at basic prices, was £9.44bn – £676m or 6.7% lower than the previous year.

The value of UK crop output fell by £999m (10.0%) in 2020, largely due to unfavourable weather and a small harvest, while ‘inseparable non-agricultural activities’ – farm diversifications – saw a £310m or 20% drop due to the impact of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions on revenues. A £490m (3.4%) increase in the value of total livestock output was not enough to offset the falls in crop and diversification returns. Defra records little change in overall farm input costs or farm subsidy levels in 2020.

Overall cereals output was worth £2.76bn in 2020, £870m or 24% down on the previous year. Wheat output fell by £885m or 36% to £1.550bn. A wet autumn led to a 24% reduction in the wheat crop area and a dry spring cut yields, contributing to a 40% lower harvest volume and the smallest wheat harvest since 1981. A 6.1% wheat price rise could not compensate.

The barley output fell by £18m or 1.7% to £1.05bn, with the larger volume planted to replace wheat in the rotation – plus a Covid-related fall in malting barley demand – seeing prices fall by 2.1%. Oilseed rape output was 39% or £227m lower at £358m, with a declining crop area leading to a 41% drop in harvested volume.

Fresh vegetable output was £129m (8.7%) higher at £1.61bn; potatoes up by £61m (7.9%) to £824m; and fruit up by £124m (13.5%) to £1.04bn. Plants and flowers were just £16m (1.2%) down to £1.36bn, despite Covid-19 lockdowns closing garden centres in the crucial spring selling period.

Total UK livestock output in 2020 is estimated at £15.07bn, a £490m or 3.4% increase over the previous year, with meat production faring better than milk. The value of output from livestock primarily for meat rose by £540 million or 6.7% to £8.57bn, with the four main sectors – cattle, pigs, sheep and poultry – showing 5% – 8% increases over 2019. Initial market disruption as Covid-19 restrictions impacted hospitality and catering was offset by greater demand for home cooked food in lockdown.

The overall value of eggs rose by £71m (11%) to £730m, with an 11% price increase reflecting lockdown demand driven by an increase in home baking.

Milk’s output fell by £78m (1.8%) over 2020 to £4.38bn with a 0.55 pence per litre or 1.8% fall in the average farmgate price to 28.56ppl. Milk production levels were maintained, with demand shifting from hospitality to household purchases, with more butter used for baking in lockdown.

The full 2020 TIFF first estimate tables (a 20 page report) can be found here.