‘No hiding place for minister’ as income crisis deepens on sheep farms – IFA

IFA National Sheep Chair Kevin Comiskey says the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue must come forward with a strong package of direct supports for sheep farmers in the Budget.

He said IFA have highlighted to the minister throughout this year the difficulties in the sector and sheep farmers will be anxiously watching this year’s Budget to see if the minister’s words of support for the sector translate into meaningful funding commitments to offset the “enormous income challenges” on farms.

Mr Comiskey said margins on sheep farms dropped over 80% last year to just €7/ewe, with weak markets to date this year taking a further €11m directly from sheep farmers’ pockets as prices to date average almost 30c/kg behind last year’s levels. He said the sheep sector is a low-income vulnerable sector that does not have the capacity to absorb these challenges and must be provided with meaningful targeted direct supports, and also said hill sheep farmers have had a particularly challenging two years as store finishers grapple with high input costs and low market returns.

Mr Comiskey commented that the IFA have put comprehensive proposals to the minister and his officials to build payments to €30/ewe while also supporting the store lamb trade. He said that costings in the Sheep Improvement Scheme must be revised to reflect the costs of compliance with the scheme for farmers.