Challenges for Sheep Sector Grows as Prices Drop Further

IFA National Sheep Committee Chair Kevin Comiskey said the difficulties in the sheep sector are increasing as factories drop prices again.

He said the sheep sector in Ireland is at a critical point with market prices failing to reflect the production cost increases farmers have had to endure over the past two years.

The income levels on sheep farms last year dropped to just €7/ewe, which included the SWS payment in 2022.

Gross margins on sheep farms fell by 14% while net margins fell by 81% to just €7/ewe in 2022 which included the SWS payment.

“Weak market prices this year have compounded the problem and is effectively leaving every sheep farmer in a severe loss-making situation,” Kevin Comiskey said.

Prices are averaging over 40c/kg behind 2022 for the year to-date on hoggets and lambs which equates to a further cut of over €9.5m in sheep farmers’ incomes for the year.

“Sheep farmers do not have the capacity to endure this level of income loss and immediate action is required.”

“Factories and Bord Bia must do more in the market place to return a viable price for sheep farmers,” he said.

“The Minister for Agriculture must deliver meaningful targeted payments of at least €30/ewe to provide economic viability on sheep farms,” he added.

The Family Farm Income on sheep farms dropped 21% in 2022, a level of reduction the low income, vulnerable sheep sector does not have the capacity to absorb.

Direct Payments contributed 110% to overall family farm incomes in 2022 and a targeted €30/ewe payment is essential to support the sector.

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