The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has warned that the sheep sector is in crisis and urgently needs government support.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) Annual Review and Outlook 2022, the average family farm income on sheep farms is forecasted to fall by 20% this year.

The cost of production for sheep farmers is expected to “increase substantially” in 2022 driven by high fertiliser and feed costs.

The report stated that higher lamb and sheep prices will be insufficient to offset rising inputs leading the average gross margin per hectare to decline by over 5%.

IFA Sheep chair, Kevin Comiskey

IFA Sheep chair Kevin Comiskey said that the department’s report “clearly sets out the crisis facing sheep farmers”.

He said that prices are currently 23c/kg behind last year’s levels or almost €5/lamb, despite the enormous input cost increases of over 30%.

“The sheep sector is in crisis. The store lamb trade, particularly lighter stores, is under severe pressure.

“Farmers who bought stores earlier in the year are not getting the market returns needed and all sheep farmers face a critical income situation,” he said.

Comiskey said that immediate direct supports are needed to restore confidence in the sector.

“€12/ewe does not cut it. We need €30/ewe and targeted payments for finishing lambs over the expensive winter period.”

He added that the situation has been compounded by the failure of Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue to provide “targeted meaningful supports” to farmers.

“The minister cannot shy away from supporting our second largest farm sector, which is the only source of vital economic and social activity in some of the most rural parts of the country while also adding to environmental objectives and driving biodiversity,” Comiskey said.

The IFA Sheep chair also called on rural TDs to support the plight of sheep farmers.