The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) is calling on Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue to take “swift and decisive action” to save the sheep sector from further decline.
INHFA national vice-president Micheal McDonnell said there is a need for “a meaningful ewe top-up package” which would provide “the necessary financial lifeline” to sheep farmers.
“It is imperative that we safeguard the livelihoods of those dedicated farmers who contribute significantly to Ireland’s agricultural output and the sustainability of our rural communities,” he said.
McDonnell said the “week-on-week” fall in lamb prices is putting the sector in a “dire position”.
He said this scenario was predicted by the INHFA last spring when he called on Minister McConalogue to introduce enhanced supports for sheep farmers.
“Unfortunately, the situation will also be compounded by the delayed payment of Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) Scheme which will impact cash flow and have a knock-on effect on the sale of store lambs and breeding ewe sales particularly for hill sheep,” McDonnell said.
“The pressure weighing down on the store lamb price has been further exacerbated by the fact that many traditional tillage farmers, who were crucial in the lamb store market, are no longer engaged in the practice.
“This shift in behavior is primarily attributed to the new Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAEC) rules for tillage farmers, which have discouraged them from planting crops for sheep,” the INHFA vice-president added.
McDonnell said this change is having “a profound and alarming effect” on the sheep sector.
“We are calling on the minister to review and apply amendments to have this situation reversed,” he said.
“This ongoing fall in the market price comes on the heels of the sheep grappling sector with increased costs, including those associated with shearing, while simultaneously facing the predicament of no market for wool.
“In addition to this, the past year has witnessed rising expenses related to feed, fertilize, and veterinary products all of which have added to the precarious state the sector now finds itself in,” McDonnell said.
The INHFA vice-president said that “the sheep sector is at a critical juncture, and without immediate intervention, its future is uncertain and this is why we are calling on the government to act immediately and ensure the survival of this vital industry.”