Scotland business

Census shows agricultural workforce falls to record low

vegetable picking Image copyright PA

Scotland's agricultural workforce has fallen to its lowest level on record, according to official figures.

The June 2016 farming census found 63,400 people were employed on agricultural holdings.

That was 1,900, or 3%, fewer than the previous year and the lowest figure since current records began in 1982.

Scotland's chief statistician largely attributed the fall to a drop in the number of working occupiers, which fell by 1,200, or 3.3%.

Working occupiers made up 58% of total workers, with regular staff accounting for 32%.

Casual and seasonal workers, which represented 10% of the total, saw a notable decrease in their numbers, dropping by 7% to 6,350 - the lowest figure since 2010.

Figures on migrant workers, published for the first time this year, showed that 430,000 migrant working-days were reported during the year - down by 7% on 2015. The actual number of migrant workers is not collected.

'Pruning back'

NFU Scotland's Director of Policy, Jonnie Hall, said: "With farm incomes having halved in the past four years and declining levels of support, it is unsurprising but disappointing to see that many businesses are pruning back on full-time labour.

"Instead, they are opting to use family, part-time labour, machinery rings and contactors more and more."

The census counted 51,896 agricultural holdings in Scotland, with the total area equating to 73% of the nation's total land area.

The figures showed a reduction in cereals, but an increase in potatoes, sheep, pigs and poultry.

Cattle numbers remained fairly constant at 1.8 million, with little change in either dairy or beef numbers.

Sheep numbers increased for the third consecutive year, to 6.8 million, but were still lower than in 2009.

Pig numbers rose for the third consecutive year to 330,000, while poultry numbers increased 8%, bouncing back after last year's 11% fall.

The figure of 14.1 million included 6.5 million broilers and 6.3 million layers.

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