Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority, says that last year strong prices for the main farm produce - milk, beef and grain - helped to increase average farm incomes to €24,461.

The average for more commercial full-time farms, of which there are about 30,000, was €56,413 last year.

In its annual report for 2011 Teagasc says farming and the agrifood industry made steady progress during the year, generating important economic activity in rural areas and valuable export earnings for the country.

During the year Irish agrifood and drink exports reached nearly €8.9 billion accounting for almost 10% of Ireland's exports.

Teagasc also notes continued growth in the number of students studying agriculture courses.

Total Teagasc income for 2011 was to €173. 3m, excluding net deferred funding for pensions. Current expenditure, excluding net deferred funding for pension, amounted to €174.2m, which when combined with the reduction in capital reserves of €5,000 resulted in an overall reduction of €0.96m in the Income and Expenditure Account Reserve in the year.

Over the last three years Teagasc has reduced the number of its offices from 91 to 51.