ICSA Sheep Committee stages protest on ‘savage price cuts’

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association’s (ICSA’s) Sheep Committee is staging a protest “as processors across the board continue to hammer sheep farmers with savage price cuts”.

The protest is being held today, Monday, May 20, at Irish Country Meats (ICM), Camolin, Co. Wexford, according to the organisation.

Speaking at the protest, ICSA sheep chairman Sean McNamara said: “There is no way sheep farmers can bear these sorts of price cuts and if they continue, most of us will not be able to stay going. Our produce has been rendered virtually worthless; we might as well be giving it away for free,” he said.

“It costs a lot of money to rear these lambs and we need to be getting a minimum of €7/kg to make it viable.

Right now, prices have gone well below the €6/kg mark, plus we’re getting hammered by weight limits. We’re losing money hand over fist and it’s just not sustainable.

“Sheep farming is a low income business; how do they expect us to stay going and maintain standards if processors refuse to give us an adequate price?”

McNamara outlined that electronic identification (EID) tagging, which was supposed to help the situation, has only increased costs for farmers “while factories and marts drag their heals on installing the necessary readers”.

“We were also promised that new markets would be delivered but the reality for those on the ground is that new markets only make money for those further along the chain and never filter back to the primary producer,” the chairman said.

“The anger is palpable amongst the farmers protesting here today. Livelihoods are under threat and to make matters worse, they’re being driven out of business unfairly.

We still have any amount of lambs coming in from the north and elsewhere, purely to depress the price here.

“Trade has never been as good in the UK as it is at the moment so there is no valid reason to be turning away Irish lambs in favour of bringing in supplies from elsewhere. We are being treated we utter contempt.”

McNamara concluded, stating that sheep farmers are on their knees: “We are here to make it very clear that these price cuts have to be reversed for the sector to have any chance of surviving.”