Hopes for stability – but ‘no future for sheep farmers at current prices’

Hopes have been voiced that lamb price might stabilise following recent talks with Kepak, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

Commenting on the matter, ICSA sheep chairman, Sean McNamara, stressed, however, that there is no future for sheep farming at current prices.

‘Better share of the cake’

He said that all sheep meat processors needed to find ways of getting farmers a “better share of the cake”.

Prices below €5/kg simply do not add up for any sheep farmer. No young farmer will be attracted into sheep farming at this year’s price level.

“The really frustrating thing is that with lambs being scarce in Australia and New Zealand, sheep farmers down under are experiencing something of a boom on price,” McNamara noted.

The chairman added that the reason why New Zealand is not even filling its quota for the EU is because demand is going so well in Asian markets.

“In fact, one processor in New Zealand is offering a contract for lambs in August at a price of NZ$9/kg (€5.31/kg).

“While there may be some demand issues in Europe, we simply do not accept that current prices represent a fair share out of the returns from the marketplace.”

Transparency

McNamara said that, along with beef price frustrations, the situation “highlights the need for compulsory EU auditing of who gets what from the food chain”.

The ICSA has been making the case for an EU regulator or watchdog to examine the books of processors and retailers and bring transparency into the food chain.

“The ICSA opposes unduly severe weight limits on lamb. There are ample outlets for lambs of 22kg.

“If all lambs were this weight there might be some argument but the reality is that farmers are getting hammered, particularly in the case of good conformation lambs, where very low weight limits are inappropriate,” the chairman concluded.

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