IFA National Sheep Chairman Sean Dennehy said the Irish sheep sector is a very important farming enterprise with 35,000 farmers and an output of €390m.
As well as providing top quality lamb meat, sheep farmers also take excellent care of our hill and mountainous areas, providing essential ecosystem services through good agricultural and environmental management.
With the major Christian festival of Easter and the Muslim festival of Ramadan approaching, Sean Dennehy said there is very strong demand for lamb.
“These festivals are important dates in the sheep farming calendar. This year Easter is on April 21st and Ramadan begins on May 6th.”
The IFA sheep farmers’ leader pointed out that for the next five years to 2024, Easter and Ramadan will be only two weeks apart. “This aligning of the calendar should drive strong demand for lamb at an early stage in the year, just as the first of the new season lamb appears on the market”.
He said hoggets are making €5.80/kg with some top prices of €5.90 paid and some feeders holding out for €6.00/kg. He said demand is very strong and supplies quite tight.
The IFA Sheep farmers leader said farmers should select their stock carefully and be careful not to sell under finished lambs. He said with Ramadan coming in early May, demand should remain strong.
The first of the new season spring lambs are out this week. Sean Dennehy said numbers will be very tight and prices are in the region of €6.60 to €6.80/kg to 21kgs. He said butchers and wholesalers are active. Ewes are making €2.80 to €3.00/kg, up to 45kgs.
Sean Dennehy was very critical of some factories, who he said were trying to talk down prices and attempting to control the trade at this critical time of year. “This is totally unacceptable and viewed very negatively by sheep farmers.”
The IFA sheep farmers leader pointed out that last year prices for hoggets were €6.20/kg and spring lambs were making €7.20.
He said sheep farmers are expecting supplies will tighten further over the coming weeks. The kill to date this year is back 97,461 head, pointing to very tight supplies.
UK lamb prices trading at £4.38/kg sterling for w/e Apr 3rd, which is the equivalent to €5.36/kg incl vat.
Sean Dennehy said the IFA is demanding an increase of the QA bonus to 30c/kg. Some plants have moved to 15c and 20c/kg with additional market specifications.