Sheep farmers demand better prices during Roscommon protest

Sheep farmers marched through Main Street in Roscommon on Monday morning as part of a protest over the prices factories are paying for their animals.

At a demonstration at Roscommon Mart following the march, a large crowd were told that Ireland’s sheep farmers were struggling to make a living in the sector which was now in crisis.

IFA groups from across the country heard calls for improved prices, higher Government supports and increased marketing of sheep meat by Bord Bia.

Addressing the large crowd, IFA President Tim Cullinan said the future of the sheep sector was at a critical juncture and the association would accept “nothing less” than €30 per ewe from Government.

“Some suppliers were very bloody quick in putting prices up but very slow in bringing them down,” he said.

Mr Cullinan said meat processors must increase prices if sheep farming was to continue in Ireland, before calling on the Government to dramatically increase ewe payments from the €12 farmers currently receive.

The IFA’s National Sheep Chairman Kevin Comiskey outlined the difficulties sheep farmers are currently facing on the ground.

“At the moment we are making €7 per ewe, which includes the sheep welfare scheme,” he said.

“In springtime it costs a euro a day to keep sheep on the ground. The average sheep farmer has 70 ewes so a €7 profit margin amounts to €490. That’s a small week’s wages for 52 weeks’ work”.

Mr Comiskey said farmers were being forced to “jump through hoops” in order to produce a sustainable high-quality product but that a sustainable wage had not been forthcoming.

The sheep chair accused the Government of insulting farmers with a €2 increase and said the association “would not stand for it”.

He said protests could escalate due to the level of “anger and frustration” among farmers in the sector.

Mr Comiskey said farmers had been looking for sustainable prices since 2016 and that the association had made the Department aware of the seriousness of the situation.

“We were taking on water but now we are starting to sink. If the minister doesn’t act immediately we have no future,” he said.

Those in attendance, including local public representatives, also heard from Connacht IFA Chair Pat Murphy and County Chair Pat Leonard.