The Economy of Clare - Agriculture
and the Rural Sector in County Clare
section examines the contribution and importance of the agricultural sector
for County Clare. It also highlights the structural features of the sector.
County Clare has a total area of 318,784 hectares with 203,450 hectares
suitable for agriculture*. While two
thirds of the land is usable for agricultural purposes, the National Soil
Survey classifies only 29% as being 'good' for grassland**.
18 - Proportion
farming by DED
19 - Proportion of small farms by DED
Value of Primary Production to the Economy of Clare
The value of agriculture, forestry and fishing as a percentage of the total GVA
in Clare is almost twice that of the corresponding percentages for both the Mid-West
region and for Ireland as a whole***.
It is estimated by Teagasc staff in Clare that agriculture is worth approximately
£100 million to the Clare economy in 2001.
Table 4.7: Estimates of Gross Value Added (GVA) in Agriculture, Forestry &
Fishing by County, 1996
||% of Total GVA
Number of Persons at Work
In 1996, just over 16% of all those working in Clare were engaged in agriculture,
forestry or fishing. There was a 3.0% drop in the numbers engaged in agriculture,
forestry or fishing between 1991 and 1996.
Table 4.8: Persons at work in agriculture, forestry & fishing by county and
||Persons at work in
||% of total persons
||Average annual % change
- 1991 - '96
The accompanying maps show
the proportion of the population who are engaged in farming and who are classified
as small farmers and where they are located by DeD****.
Map 18 shows that farming as a livelihood is
concentrated in the western and northern DeDs.
Map 19 shows that small farmers are concentrated
particularly in the southwestern parts of the County.
Number of Holdings
The total number of farm holdings in County Clare declined from 12,500 in 1970
to 8,200 in 1991. The most significant decline was in the period 1980-1991 when
the number of farms of less than 50 acres fell from 7,200 to 3,800; a 52.78% reduction.
These numbers have been rounded off to the nearest hundred. The following graph
shows the distribution of farms by size, based on the 1991 Agricultural Census.
Figure 4.9: Percentage of holdings classified by holding size in acres in Clare,
Table 4.9 shows that the number of farms in Clare in 1995 was 7,572. The average
farm size was slightly less than the national average farm size.
||No. of Farms
|Average Farm Size -
The majority of farms in Clare concentrate on beef production followed by dairying.
The farm economy of the County is characterised by a relatively high reliance
of small-scale dairy production in comparison to the rest of Ireland.
Table 4.10: Profile of Farms by Type for County Clare and Ireland.
The dominance of cattle in
the economy of Clare is also evident in the relative comparisons between the numbers
of sheep and cattle as shown in Table 4.11.
Table 4.11: Livestock Numbers in County Clare.
CSO County Analysis for 1997
Number of Farmers in REPS
As of autumn 2000, there were 2,640 landowners in the Rural Environmental Protection
Scheme (REPS) in County Clare. The number of applicants in the Scheme of Early
Retirement from Farming was 455. Both figures relate to the number of applicants
received up to 31st December 1999. At the beginning of 1997, approximately one
in every 6 farmers was in REPS and by the end of 1998 this had increased to one
in every 3 farmers*****.
Milk Production in County Clare
Twenty nine percent of farmers in Clare have a dairy enterprise and milk production
generates £30 million per annum for its dairy farm households. However,
although Clare has 5% of Ireland's dairy farmers, it only has 2.5% of its milk
pool. This is due to the relatively small size of its dairy units when compared
with the national profile. In 1996, just under 2,000 dairy farmers in the County
supplied four milk processors; Golden Vale plc, Kerry Group plc, Nenagh Co-op
and Dairygold Co-op. However, for the 1996/97 milk-quota year, just over three-quarters
of dairy farmers in Clare supplied Golden Vale plc. In 2001, Teagasc staff have
estimated that the number of full-time dairy farmers in Clare has fallen to approximately
Table 4.12: Dairy farmers in Clare and Ireland by milk supply categories (1996)
|Milk Supply Category
||County Clare (n=2,000)
|20,000 - 35,000 gallons
County Clare Partnership Dairy Action - Research Programme 1997-1999
There is no large-scale dairy
processing in Clare as all of the dairy product leaves the County in unprocessed
form (e.g. milk from Golden Vale suppliers is processed in Charleville, County
Marts in Clare
The total numbers of cattle and calves sold in 1999 through the Clare Marts were
105,000. Total numbers of sheep sold were 26,000. Clare Marts have centres at
Ennis, Kilrush, Ennistymon and Scariff. There are small private marts in Kilfenora
and in Sixmilebridge. It is estimated that the Clare Marts group would handle
well over 75% to 90% of all animals sold. There are no large abattoirs or meat
processing plants in Clare.
Tillage in Clare
Table 4.13 shows the total tillage area in Clare relative to the total area of
grassland and tillage.
Table 4.13: Total tillage area in Clare relative to the total area of grassland
|Total Tillage Area
|Total Area of Grassland
CSO County Analysis for 1997, published in May 1998
Horticulture in Clare
Tables 4.14 shows the economic contribution of horticulture to the Clare economy.
A more complete data set can be found in Appendix 2.
Horticulture is largely of the market garden type and is primarily located in
the south east of the County, where the two primary products produced are mushrooms
and nursery stock/flowers.
Table 4.14: Economic Contribution of Horticulture to Clare
Equine Industry in Clare
The following tables illustrate the extent of the equine industry in Clare
Table 4.15: Number of Horses, 1997
|Total Number of Horses
& Ponies in County Clare
|Active Breeding Registered.
Mares (all Non-Thoroughbred) in County Clare
There are currently 20 Equestrian riding centres in County Clare where all types
of equestrian activities are catered for, from riding lessons to trekking, cross
country, hunting and livery.
Clare has a higher number of those engaged in organic farming than any other
County. Clare is also the County, which has the highest share of its land farmed
organically (2.2% versus 0.7% for the State overall).
Table 4.16: Organic Farming: Numbers of producers by County, 1999
Supports for Food Processing
In 1997, the Leader Group in Clare, Rural Resource Development Ltd (RRD), examined
methods to develop and promote the food industry in Clare. A brand image "Flavours
of Clare" was identified and launched in 1998. This image helped to market
Clare's indigenous food companies under the umbrella group and to maximise the
effectiveness of any sales, marketing or advertising undertaken by the participant
companies. RRD has also supported food enterprises such as sheep's cheese, goat's
cheese, farmhouse cheese, a blueberry centre, a bagel bakery and cooked meats.
County Development Plan, 1999-2004
Development Commission, 1999.
1996 Census defined small farms as being less than 30 acres.
County Clare Partnership Dairy Action - Research Programme 1997 - 1999
to The Economy of Clare