Stronger action at EU and Government level is required to address the ongoing income challenges in the beef and sheep sectors, IFA President Joe Healy said today at the Farmers Journal open day on the Tullamore suckler and sheep farm.
The IFA President said a policy framework must be developed with the aim of returning viable cattle and sheep prices and increased targeted direct payments, which are essential to maintain confidence in the sectors and our national breeding herds which provide the backbone to €2.5bn in output value.
Joe Healy said technical efficiency is very important inside the farm gate, as demonstrated by the Tullamore farm, but getting the national and EU policy right for a profitable sector at farm level is absolutely essential.
The IFA President said viable price returns to farmers are possible from the market provided there is a fair share out of the retail price across the chain. He said cattle prices in the range from €4.00 to €4.50/kg are essential to cover the cost of production on the most efficient farms, and leave a margin. On lamb prices, he said mid-season prices need to be in the order of €5.00 to €6.00//kg.
Joe Healy said market demand for beef is strong and export market prices, particularly in our main market in the UK, are very strong. Cattle numbers will be much tighter than originally forecast due to increased live exports and lower carcase weights. “Beef markets are in a strong position and there is no basis for any pressure on cattle prices. In addition, live exports are performing very well, up 45%, with 140,000 head exported to-date this year.”
On Brexit, Joe Healy said Minister Creed and the Department of Agriculture must keep farming and the agriculture sector firmly at the top of the Government and EU agenda. He said the beef sector is particularly exposed and must be protected.
In addition, he said beef and sheep farmers rely very heavily on direct payments for their income and Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed must demand an increase in the CAP budget in Brussels. “Direct payments must be protected and increased for suckler cows and sheep, in line with the proposals from IFA,”
IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods said the EU Commission has confirmed to IFA that Ireland can add on payments for welfare to the existing Beef Data and Genomics Programme for suckler cows. He said this would help increase direct payment for suckler cows towards the IFA target of €200 per cow and could be financed from the National and EU underspend across some RDP schemes.
Angus Woods welcomed the progress on market access to Japan and the US but said this must be turned into real cattle price delivery to beef farmers, “We need to see more progress on market access, especially to China and Asia. We also need a lot more work on live export markets like Egypt, so as to increase price competition.”
Joe Healy also welcomed the strong stance being taken by Minister Michael Creed in opposition to an EU/Mercosur trade deal. He said Minister Michael Creed has made it absolutely clear that beef must be excluded from any Mercosur deal. He said the Mercosur trade issue is beginning to heat up in Brussels and now is the time to drive Ireland’s opposition at the highest levels in Brussels.
IFA National Sheep Chairman John Lynskey said the New Sheep Welfare Scheme, secured by IFA, was a positive boost to sheep farmers, worth €10 per ewe or €20m per year. He said IFA has proposed that the €5m underspend in the scheme be retained in the sheep sector and increased to bolt on an additional €5 per ewe environmental element to the scheme, for hill and lowland producers. Again, John Lynskey said the EU Commission has confirmed to IFA that this is possible under the RDP regulations.