‘Price-cutting tactics of factories have plunged sheep sector into income crisis’

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has accused the factories of plunging the sheep sector into an income crisis “with savage price cuts”.

The comments come as the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) protest outside Irish Country Meats (ICM) in Camolin, Co. Wexford today, May 20, 2019.

ICSA said this morning that “there was no way” sheep farmers could bear the price cuts being enforced on them, and the organisation pointed out that if those cuts continue most sheep farmers “will not be able to stay going”.

IFA’s National Sheep Chairman Sean Dennehy, meanwhile, has accused the factories of completely undermining the lamb price and of having “total disregard for sheep farm incomes”.

“The price-cutting tactics of the factories in the last two weeks have plunged the sheep sector into an income crisis,” he added, before pointing out that factory price cuts were destroying “any chance of an income from sheep farming this year”.

Dennehy went on to say that lamb and hogget prices were down €1.50/kg on this time last year.

“This is equivalent to a price cut of over €30 per lamb – that is way more than the entire net margin in a sheep enterprise based on Teagasc NFS data,” he added.

“It is an absolute scandal that they are paying more for old cull ewes than new season spring lamb.

Lamb factories need to stop cutting prices and undermining the lamb market. The price-cutting tactic of the factories is completely undermining the market and destroying sheep farmers’ incomes.

“We need price stability at this critical time.”

‘Demands and assurances’

Meanwhille, and in response to the crisis, IFA has organised a meeting with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed tomorrow, Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Dennehy says that – on the day – officials will demand that the minister challenges the factories on their price-cutting agenda.

He also pointed out that IFA sheep committee members are meeting with numerous lamb factories this week “to highlight the impact of the excessive price cuts on farm incomes”.

IFA has also been in contact with Bord Bia demanding that their promotional programmes be brought forward to take account of the fact that spring lambs are coming to market a lot earlier this year.

Dennehy added: “IFA’s sheep chairman advised flock owners to draft and select stock on a weekly basis at this time of year.

“With the good spring, lambs are finishing well, and it is therefore essential that farmers don’t allow lambs into overweight condition. This is only giving factories free lamb and makes no sense.”

He pointed out that spring lambs are making as low as €5.50/kg to €5.80/kg including bonuses.

“In general farmers are getting €5.65 to €5.75/kg and rejecting the low quotes from the factories.

“Hoggets are ranging from €4.60 to €4.80/kg. The factories must stop the price cuts, stabilise the market and increase their quotes back up to realistic levels,” concluded Dennehy.