IFA Sheep Chairman Kevin Comiskey said the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has to step up for sheep farmers.
The IFA Chairman said the income crisis on sheep farms is there for everybody to see, with Teagasc figures clearly showing the extent of the problem for sheep farmers last year where incomes collapsed by over 80% to just €7/ewe, which included the Sheep Welfare payment.
Since the turn of the year the situation has been compounded by weak market prices, a scenario that shouldn’t be a surprise to the Minister either, as he is well aware of the market predictions published by Bord Bia for the sheep sector.
Kevin Comiskey said in comparison to our key export market countries – the UK and France – we are the only one where sheep prices remain below last year’s levels. This does not add up and factories have serious questions to answer.
He said hogget supplies are dropping off and there is no flush of lamb available. Prices are strong in our key markets, driven by demand, and this must be reflected in stronger prices for hoggets and spring lamb from our factories.
“The failure of factories and the market place to-date this year to return prices to sheep farmers is compounding the problem. What seems to be lacking here is a will from the Minister to support our second largest farm sector,” he said.
He said the Minister has not been slow in supporting other sectors with funds from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve as issues have arisen, but for some reason he chooses to completely ignore the difficulties of sheep farmers.
“This is not acceptable and he must come forward immediately with direct, meaningful targeted supports for sheep farmers bringing the ewe payment to €30 and supporting store lamb finishers,” he said.
Kevin Comiskey said an Irish Wool Council has been established to much fanfare, but in reality will not offer any meaningful value to the incomes of sheep farmers in the short to medium term.
The workings of this group will also be severely hampered if the Minister and his cabinet colleague, Minister Pippa Hackett fail to incentivise farmers in presenting wool in optimum condition for further added value uses.
Kevin Comiskey said the losses already incurred this year by sheep farmers will not be recouped without direct supports. The Minister and his colleagues in Government must address the crisis as a matter of urgency and commit to meaningful targeted supports for the sector.