At a meeting between IFA and the lamb factories from Meat Industry Ireland (MII) in Dublin this week, IFA President Joe Healy said hogget finishers are extremely frustrated with the loss-making prices on offer from the meat plants, which are down 65c/kg or €15 per head on this time last year. He said in some instances, with weight cuts, the losses are as high as €20 per lamb.
Joe Healy said a National Sheep Committee delegation from the IFA told the factories in very blunt terms the poor prices along with unfair weight limit cuts on top of clipping charges had seriously eroded confidence in the sheep sector. He said IFA and Agriculture Minister Michael Creed worked very hard to secure a new €25m sheep welfare scheme, which had provided a great boost to the sector but this had been seriously undermined by the latest developments on the market side.
The IFA President said the factories are adopting an approach that is way too negative and is undermining market confidence. He called on the factories to come out and offer a viable price for in-spec quality lambs. He said factories are unfairly using a relatively small volume of increased numbers of heavier lambs to undermine the market. Joe Healy said, “If the factories want in-spec quality lambs, let them offer a viable price for them and farmers will move them earlier and at lighter weights.”
IFA National Sheep Chairman John Lynskey said factories need to adopt a more responsible and longer term approach to ensure the continued supply of quality assured lamb out of season to meet their retail requirements on a full year-round basis and reduce their dependence on imports. He said it is very much in the interests of meat plants and the broader sheep sector that hogget finishers have a strong viable business. On imports, John Lynskey said IFA made it very clear to the lamb factories that farmers would take a very dim view of any imports, either live or in carcase form, from outside the island, being used to push back the market.
John Lynskey said the approach from some of the main lamb factories in applying an across-the-board clipping charge on all sheep being processed is very negative and wrong. He called on the factories to reconsider their policy on this which he said was not working. He said IFA was working with Minister Creed and the Department of Agriculture on a clean livestock policy in the sheep sector.
IFA also discussed a number of other sheep issues with MII at the meeting including stronger EU support for the sheep sector around the outcome of the recent EU Sheep Reflection Group established by Commissioner Hogan in Brussels. John Lynskey said the two key recommendations from the report are increased targeted direct support for the sheep sector in CAP and increased promotional funding to avert declining sheep meat consumption across Europe. He said IFA and MII will continue to work at Brussels level to advance these recommendations.