Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Barry Cowen, is being called on to explain “as a matter of urgency” the issue of lambs being imported into Ireland.

“Figures show that in any given year approximately 500,000 lambs are imported into the Republic of Ireland for slaughter. Is it any wonder Irish sheep farmers have a hard time selling their stock or getting a fair price?” asked Sean McNamara, the sheep chairperson of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

McNamara said that the ICSA was calling on the minister and his department to take steps to increase transparency around this issue.

These steps include:

  • Weekly reports on the number of lambs imported, and from where;
  • Full transparency around which markets these imported lambs are servicing;
  • A “comprehensive explanation” on how farmers can be assured these lambs are not being sold as Origin Green lambs;
  • An outline of the veterinary protocols imposed, and traceability on all lambs at the point before they come to Irish meat factories.

“As an exporting country, sheep farmers deserve to know why these lambs are being brought in and in such big numbers. If the purpose is not to keep a lid on prices, then what is it?” the ICSA sheep chairperson queried.

“Why do processors need to go elsewhere to procure up to 10,000 lambs a week when local farmers would be prepared to supply the desired numbers, given a fair price? This lack of a fair price is precisely the reason so many of our sheep farmers can see no future,” he argued.

McNamara continued: “We also know that around 20% of lambs imported are coming from further afield than the north of Ireland, and there are significant costs associated with bringing them in.

“It is clear this is being done at the expense of local producers who constantly get hammered on price. It’s time for a determined effort to level the playing field,” he concluded.