IFA Sheep Chairman Kevin Comiskey has called out the lack of meaningful and direct support for sheep farmers from the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and the sheep processing factories.
He was reacting to the latest attempts by factories to drop lamb prices at a critical time for the sector.
IFA had highlighted to the Minister and the factories earlier this year the importance of direct supports for sheep farmers and strong lamb prices to maintain production systems and ensure the orderly marketing of lambs throughout the year given the production costs farmers are exposed to.
“The Minister has not yet come forward with a targeted payment for sheep farmers to support the orderly feeding and finishing of lambs, which is certainly contributing to the increase in numbers of under finished lambs presented to factories,” he said.
Kevin Comiskey said the sheep factories are not without blame: “Their failure to provide strong and meaningful prices to farmers as a signal to invest in the orderly finishing of lambs is also a critical factor, while continuing to import live lambs and carcase lamb”.
The IFA Sheep Chairman said prices in the UK have started to rebound, and critically in the key French market, prices continue at over €8/kg. This must be reflected in prices for lamb offered by factories.
Mr. Comiskey has called on the Minister to come forward as a matter of urgency with targeted payments to sheep farmers to offset the increased production costs on farms and ensure confidence is restored to the sector to underpin the very important store trade for sheep farmers.
He also called on factories to play their part: stand firm in the market place; reflect the strength of the French market in prices offered to farmers; and give minimum price guarantees for the coming months.
“Factories are paying to 22kgs to secure these lambs; throughput is running 7 per cent above last year’s levels; and earlier movement of lambs in the UK and throughout Europe should provide a solid basis for the lamb trade for the coming months. However, factories must reflect this in current and future prices for lambs.
“Farmers should sell hard, while conscious of lower kill out weights and under fleshed lambs to take back control of the supply demand balance and maximise returns,” he concluded.