Crisis in Sheep Sector Must be Averted with Stronger Prices and Targeted Supports – IFA

Sheep in Wicklow

IFA Sheep Chairman Kevin Comiskey has strongly criticised factories for further cuts on lamb prices.

He said the weakening of lamb prices at a time when production costs are at an all-time high is not acceptable and must stop.

The IFA Sheep Chairman said input costs on sheep farms has increased in the past 12 months by over 40% and sheep farmers do not have the capacity to absorb this level of cost increase which has eroded the income levels in an extremely vulnerable sector.

Teagasc has forecasted margins from sheep production to decline further this year with current prices insufficient to cover the increased costs of production. The outlook for 2023 forecasts feed prices to increase by a further 10% with no weakening of fertilizer prices which have increased 195% on 2021 levels. Other direct costs are forecasted to increase by 4% in 2023.

“Factories have failed to provide strong and meaningful prices to farmers who have invested in finishing lambs throughout this period and this week in particular which only serves to undermine confidence in the sector,” he said.

The Sheep Chairman said factories imposing weight cuts on lambs in an attempt to flatten prices is unacceptable and only sends negative messages to farmers committed to finishing lambs.

Direct payments make up over 100% of FFI on sheep farms and farmers are becoming increasingly unviable in the sector with current prices and the failure of the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to provide meaningful direct supports to the sector he said.

Kevin Comiskey said the sheep sector is in crises, sheep production is the most environmentally sustainable food production system in the country but farmers are not been rewarded for this.

There is real concern within the sector for the spring trade and action needs to be taking immediately to support farmers to maintain a year-round supply of lamb.

He said factories are paying up to €6.50kg for lambs, with higher deals for groups and larger lots. Cull ewes are ranging from €3.20kg to €3.50kg.

Kevin Comiskey said factories must do more to support sheep farmers at this critical time and ensure all costs associated with finishing lambs are reflected in prices paid to farmers to maintain confidence in the sector.

He said the Minister for Agriculture also has a significant role to play and must come forward with meaningful targeted supports for what has become the forgotten sector in Irish agriculture despite its unquestionable contribution to the economic, social and environmentally sustainability of rural Ireland.

The IFA Chairman said sheep farmers will not stand idly by and let factories and Government undermine the second largest farm sector in Ireland, based on farmer numbers, by their failure to support sheep farmers with viable prices and targeted supports.

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