Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, is being called on to come forward with supports for farmers to plant catch crops in an bid to bolster store lamb trade this year.

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Sheep Committee chair, Kevin Comiskey, said the minister must provide “meaningful incentives” for farmers.

The store lamb trade is starting and while initial indications are of solid demand for the numbers available at the moment, Comiskey said it’s critical that the minister provides meaningful incentives to farmers who are prepared to plant catch crops to finish these lambs.

He said sheep farmers, like all other sectors, are feeling the impact of higher production costs and are concerned about making investments to finish lambs into the winter.

“Any tightening in surplus grass and feed will first impact the store lamb trade and this would have devastating consequences for hill sheep farmers in particular who are heavily dependent on this trade for their income,” he said.

The IFA Sheep Committee made a detailed submission to the minister earlier this year, setting out the supports needed for the sector, which included a catch crop support scheme for farmers who would be in a position to finish store lambs.

“Time is moving on and it’s vital the minister comes forward with proposals for support to maximise the output from this measure,” he said.

“We need to have a commitment from the minister before the store trade starts in earnest.

“I’m asking the minister to make an announcement on the issue before the summer break as it will be too late to take action afterwards and the opportunity will be lost,” he said.