‘Strong Government action needed to secure sheep sector’ – Healy

Strong action from the Government through domestic and EU supports is needed to secure the sheep sector into the future, according to the president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Speaking today, Tuesday, November 12, Joe Healy argued that higher prices on the part of factories were also necessary.

“The sheep sector is going through a very difficult period. Compared to 2018, this season’s lamb prices are down 43c/kg or €9/lamb, mainly due to the impact of Brexit in the UK,” Healy highlighted.

Healy, along with the IFA’s national sheep chairperson Sean Dennehy, outlined a set of actions on prices and policy that they said are “required to restore farm incomes and confidence back into the sheep sector”.

Among these measures are “increased targeted payments” for the sheep sector from state funding, as well as supports under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). These targeted direct payments would amount to €30/ewe in the IFA’s plans.

Healy highlighted the shortfall in funds being drawn down by farmers under the Sheep Welfare Scheme, and called on Minister Michael Creed to amend the scheme to provide increased levels of payment and to extend the scheme for future years.

CAP

The IFA president insisted that the CAP Strategic Plan for Ireland “must prioritise vulnerable sectors like sheep”, and he called on the minister to stand against any proposed cuts in Ireland’s CAP funding.

Healy also proposed a €10,000 environmental scheme in the new CAP, with higher payments for designated and commonage land, and increased funding for the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) scheme.

Exports

IFA sheep chairman Dennehy argued that access to the Chinese market is “critical” for Irish sheepmeat exporters.

“Access to China has dramatically increased lamb prices in New Zealand and Australia over recent months… Having messed up on the Mercosur deal for beef, the EU Commission cannot contemplate another bad trade deal on agriculture with New Zealand and Australia, which already have access for a massive combined volume of 247,440t of lamb imports into the EU market,” Dennehy highlighted.

Prices

“Lamb supplies are tightening, and factories need to increase prices. Some factories had imposed severe weight and fat penalties and others had enforced excessive charges, which are way over the top,” Dennehy continued.

He demanded that factories introduce a quality assurance (QA) bonus of 30c/kg on lamb, arguing that the current QA bonus of 10-15c/kg is “totally inadequate”.

Such an increase would also boost farmer participation in the scheme, Dennehy concluded.

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