Figures obtained by Cumbrian MP, Tim Farron, through a parliamentary question show that average incomes for hill farmers in Cumbria have recovered from a low of £4,800 a year to £12,600 a year between 2008/9 and 2009/10.
After years of struggle following the foot and mouth outbreak in 2007, the rise as a result of improved sheep prices is extremely welcome. However, with an average annual income of just £12,600, hill farmers in Cumbria are still earning considerably less than the national average for farmers working on less favoured areas, and they are a long way off their peak average income of £19,600 in 2004/5. The £12,600 figure is also lower than the average income of hill farmers in 2006 before the foot and mouth crisis.
Commenting today Tim said: "I'm very pleased to see that hill farmers in Cumbria are starting to show real signs of recovery following the devastation caused by foot and mouth disease. However our hill farmers are still well below the average UK salary and barely more than minimum wage.
"On top of that the significant increase in income seen over that last year is very finely balanced on the price of sheep which is constantly fluctuating and therefore our hill farmers' income could easily suffer from unfair decreases again at any time. This shows how vital it is that we have a supermarket ombudsman to regulate prices and protect those farmers in Cumbria and across the UK in less favoured areas."
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