Catalogue description Records of Statistics and Agricultural Reports

Details of Division within MAF
Reference: Division within MAF
Title: Records of Statistics and Agricultural Reports

Records of the statistics divisions of the agriculture departments, including some of the earliest records relating to agriculture produced by the government.

The records relate to:

Agricultural market reports previously assigned to MAF 278 have been re-assigned to a different MAF series.

Date: 1698-1998

Following the split of the Statistics Division in 1965, existing statistics file series were closed and seven new series (codes STA to STG) were opened in their place.

Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, Statistical Branch, 1903-1919

Board of Agriculture, Statistical Branch, 1889-1919

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Economics and Statistics Division, 1942-1955

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Statistical Division, 1919-1941

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Statistics (Agricultural Commodities) Division, 1984-1995

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Statistics (Census and Prices) Division, 1984-1995

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Statistics Division, 1955-1965

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Statistics Division I, 1965-1984

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Statistics Division II, 1965-1984

Physical description: 23 series
Administrative / biographical background:

Statistics Divisions

The collection of agricultural statistics began with the return of average corn prices instituted in 1685. These returns were used for assessing the amount of duty to be levied on foreign corn imported and the bounty to be paid on home grown corn exported, and also in connection with the commutation and redemption of tithes and corn rents. The Corn Returns Act 1882 required weekly returns of purchases of British corn to be made to the Board of Trade. An order in council transferred this function to the Board of Agriculture from 1 February 1892.

Apart from the corn returns all attempts to collect official agricultural statistics were resisted until a system of voluntary annual returns of acreage, cropping and livestock was instituted in 1866 under the supervision of the Board of Trade, the collections being made at first by local excise officers. This responsibility passed to the Agricultural Department of the Privy Council Office in 1883 and to the Board of Agriculture in 1889, though it was not until 1919 that the ministry acquired from the Board of Customs and Excise the business of collecting these returns. They became compulsory in 1917, voluntary again in 1921 and permanently compulsory in 1925, though it is estimated that in any given year only 80% of landholders will successfully complete and return the census form.

Soon after its establishment the Board of Agriculture set up a Statistical Branch to perform these functions and a branch, or one or more divisions has existed ever since. The divisions responsible for collection of statistics have usually been closely linked to divisions handling economic questions. From 1942 there was a joint Economics and Statistics Division, but following the formation of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 1955 the two branches were split and a separate Statistics Division formed. This also split in 1965, and Statistics Division I dealt with forecasting and estimating performance and growth in the agricultural industry, while Statistics Division II handled the agricultural census and food price statistics. In 1984 food statistics matters passed to a new Economics and Statistics (Food) Division, while the remaining parts of the original divisions were re-named Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, respectively. In 1995 food statistics business was passed to the former of these divisions, which became the Statistics (Commodities and Food) Division, and a new Economics and Statistics (Farm Business) Division was established at the same time.

In addition to the corn returns and the annual agricultural census the divisions are responsible for a wide variety of statistics, including weekly prices, market conditions, crop yields and supplies, and since December 1950 county and local advisory officers have compiled monthly reports on agricultural conditions in their areas. Additional responsibilities were for estimates of household food consumption for the National Food Survey (though this was passed from Statistics Division II to a Food Economics Unit in 1981) and the co-ordination of statistics for the Central Statistical Office, for the European Economic Community and other international bodies. Apart from regular collections, any special surveys for particular purposes are conducted by the Statistics Divisions. An Agricultural Statistics Advisory Committee was appointed on 1 January 1948 to advise the minister on the collection of statistical returns from farmers and related matters.

Statistics on commercial sea fishing have been collected at all ports in England and Wales since 1886, originally by the Board of Trade, from each sea-going vessel for each voyage. These statistics are handled by the various branches of the Fisheries Department.

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