IFA President Tim Cullinan said IFA will hold a public meeting for sheep farmers in Athlone on Mon, Jan 23rd.
It takes place at a critical time for the sheep sector, with falling prices and rising costs placing huge pressure on farmers.
The meeting in Radisson Blu, Athlone at 8pm will hear presentations from Teagasc on the costs of production; Bord Bia will give an update on the market outlook for lamb, with the processor perspective from Irish Country Meats.
Sheep farmers are facing a very challenging period with factory prices currently running €1/kg behind last year’s levels, with no reduction in production costs.
He said the continual weakening of lamb prices by factories when production costs are at an all-time high is not acceptable and must stop.
“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 increase which has eroded the income levels in an extremely vulnerable sector,” he said.
Tim Cullinan said 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.
He said today’s Bord Bia seminar heard about the challenging market environment for lamb. However, prices in one of our most important markets – France – has consistently held above €8/kg, and has gone over €8.50/kg.
The IFA President said the relentless downward price pressure must stop and prices must return to viable levels to provide confidence to sheep farmers to orderly market lambs over the next few weeks and months.
IFA Sheep Chairman Kevin Comiskey said in addition to cutting prices, factories are imposing weight cuts on lambs in an attempt to flatten prices. This is sending negative messages to farmers committed to finishing lambs.
He said farmers are becoming increasingly unviable with current prices and the failure of the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to provide meaningful direct supports is adding to 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 concluded.