Factories are coming under fire from the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) for what the farming organisation has described as “further unjustified” lamb price cuts.

As Agriland reported this week, lamb prices since the early part of July are back €21 on a 21kg carcass.

Factories reduced lamb prices coming into this week by a further 20c/kg, and when combined with last week’s cuts, they represent a fall of up to 60c/kg in just over a week.

The IFA president, Tim Cullinan, said the level of lamb price cuts is unsustainable and sheep farmers cannot be expected to absorb reductions on this scale in a year when production costs are predicted to increase by 30%.

He said factories are offering deals up to €6.70/kg and deals to 22kg to secure lambs, but they are meeting very strong resistance from farmers.

“Store lamb sales have started positive, but it’s crucial that factories return a fair price to underpin this trade for the remainder of the year,” he said.

IFA Sheep Committee chair, Kevin Comiskey, said supplies of suitable finished lambs are very tight on the ground and there was no rationale for the cuts imposed by factories this week.

He said there is no huge surge of lambs coming through the system as total spring throughput, to date, is running 12% behind last year’s levels.

Lamb imports to remain low

Bord Bia predicts supplies of imported lamb into the EU market will remain low for the remainder of the year, while EU lamb production is forecast to be back 2%, creating favourable conditions for Irish lamb.

Following a market update meeting with Bord Bia, Kevin Comiskey stressed the importance of continued promotional activities of Irish lamb overseas in order to deliver new markets for Irish produce and to strengthen the value returned to Irish producers.

He said sheep production is the most environmentally sustainable food-production system in the country, but sheep farmers are not being paid for it by the market. 

The IFA chair said demand for sheepmeat is strong in our key export markets and factories must ensure these positive market conditions are reflected in prices paid to farmers.