IFA Sheep Chairman Meets Minister McConalogue on Worsening Crisis in Sheep Sector

Sheep in Wicklow

IFA Sheep Chairman Kevin Comiskey said the latest CSO agriculture output index for February highlights the extent of the crisis in the sheep sector while sheep farmers wait on the Government’s response.

He said the CSO index shows sheep farmers to be the only sector losing ground in output value, dropping 8.9% to the end of February, when all other sectors recorded average growth of 33%. At the same time, sheep farmers endured the same level of exposure to the input price increase of 16.4%.

IFA has highlighted in recent weeks the loss of €9m from sheep farmers’ incomes for the first three months of the year due to the price differential with last year, which equates to €14/lamb or €21/ewe.

“Sheep farmers do not have the capacity to endure this relentless loss of income. Teagasc figures showed a cut of income on farms last year of over 80%, to just €7/ewe, which includes the Sheep Welfare Scheme payment.  The losses to-date this year have compounded the income situation on sheep farms and have created a critical loss-making situation that can only be addressed with immediate direct supports,” he said.

Kevin Comiskey met with Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue earlier this week and put forward the facts as presented by Bord Bia, Teagasc, all of which clearly, concisely and consistently show the extent of the crisis in the sector.

He also outlined the costs associated with shearing on farms due to the collapsed wool market which will not be addressed by the recently-formed Wool Council in any meaningful way for farmers.

Kevin Comiskey said sheep farmers are feeling the brunt of the Brexit impact in trade deals done by the UK with NZ and Australia in particular. Both are large sheep-producing countries with the capacity to severely undermine our key markets. These trade deals are in addition to deals already done and in the pipeline with the EU providing additional sheep meat access to our key markets.

“Other sectors and processors have had Brexit Adjustment Reserve funding allocated. Very few if any have experienced the same level of impact on incomes as sheep farmers and yet Government have not allocated any BAR funding to the sector. This is unacceptable,” he said.

The Minister and his Government colleagues cannot continue to ignore these facts and the seriousness of the situation on sheep farms.

We have had Food Vision Sheep Group reports, senior Department officials assess the situation, the publication of the facts by all relevant state agencies and still no action from Government.

Kevin Comiskey called on the Minister and the Government to come forward as a matter of urgency with immediate targeted supports for sheep farmers to provide €30/ewe and supports for farmers finishing store lambs.

He said TDs throughout the country are acutely aware of the situation sheep farmers in their constituencies find themselves. They have a key role to play in ensuring the necessary funding is provided for direct supports to sheep farmers to alleviate this crisis.

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