ICSA warns against premature forecast of better beef and sheep incomes this year

24th July, 2012

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin warned that it might be premature to forecast better beef and sheep incomes for 2012.  Mr Gilmartin was reacting to Teagasc forecasts that beef and sheep income could be up due to better livestock prices.

“We have yet to see big numbers of weanlings sold, so price predictions come with a health warning.  As we have seen in recent weeks, factories are looking to take advantage of any extra supply.”

“However, the biggest issue is whether we can assess the cost impacts of the awful weather until we see how the next few months turn out.  It’s certain that feed costs, especially on cattle farms, are rocketing due to farmers having to house stock over the summer months.”

“Poor quality silage will also have a huge impact on the need to buy in extra concentrates.  It will all depend on what the autumn is like and when the winter feeding period begins.”

“Aside from feed, there is ongoing pressure on costs from fertiliser and fuel prices as well.  Again poor weather is leading to less efficient use of these inputs.”

“So overall, I would be delighted to see an increase in cattle and sheep incomes in 2012, but I’m not sure it will pan out that way.”

More positive signs for beef, says ICSA

23rd July, 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association beef chairman, Edmond Phelan, today (Monday) said that all the indicators are starting to look positive again for the beef trade, with signals that cattle could soon be moving to Libya and that factories are going to have to compete more aggressively to get the better quality stock.

“While some farmers were caught in a difficult situation with weather-related woes in the past few weeks, farmers now need to realise that the ball has swung back into their court and that prices could very well harden over the next few weeks.  Cattle are scarcer than ever and with some uplift in the weather, there is no need to take bad prices.”

“There are also positive moves afoot by exporters to get cattle moving to Libya, although price will be an issue.  Nonetheless, exports to Libya would have a very positive impact on putting a floor under prices for Friesians over the coming months.  I would urge Minister Coveney to be proactive in ensuring that exporters receive every assistance in getting this trade open.”

Harkin to address ICSA CAP meeting in Sligo

16th July, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association is hosting a public meeting to discuss CAP reform this coming Monday night, 23rd July, in the Glasshouse Hotel, Sligo, beginning at 8.30pm.  

MEP for Ireland North West, Marian Harkin and ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin will be the main speakers at the event.  All local TDs Michael Colreavy, Tony McLoughlin and John Perry, and Senator Marc Mac Sharry have been invited to attend.  Ms. Harkin will present the latest news from the European Parliament, and ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch will deliver a detailed presentation on the current state of play in the CAP negotiations.  

The meeting will be chaired by ICSA Connaught/Ulster vice-president John Flynn, who said “I would urge all farmers to attend, as this meeting will give farmers the chance to have an input into the negotiations.  It is vital that every farmer is well-informed on how the changes to CAP post-2013 will affect their business and that they take part in the debate.”

A comprehensive and open discussion on all the issues surrounding the CAP negotiations will take place on the night and everyone is welcome to attend.

ICSA calls on farm inspectors to make allowances for difficulties caused by bad weather

13th July, 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president, Gabriel Gilmartin, has issued an appeal to farm inspectors to make allowances for the serious effect the current heavy rainfall is having on farms across the country.  

Mr. Gilmartin said, “we are conscious that the Department is obliged to carry out inspections, and as such, we understand that they cannot be cancelled or postponed.  However, meeting the required standard under these weather conditions will be extremely difficult and I would really hope that the inspectors recognise this when they visit farms.”

“For example, in a lot of places poaching is at a serious level, many farmers have re-housed their cattle and land is too wet to spread slurry so tanks are full.  Heavy crops of rushes are also problematic and could mean penalties in an inspection – but the weather at the moment means they can’t be sprayed or cut.”

Mr. Gilmartin concluded, “farmers are under huge pressure just getting their work done on a day-to-day basis with the amount of rain we’re getting.  I am appealing to the inspectors, with their knowledge of farming, to take the effect of the bad weather into account.”

ICSA urges beef farmers not to panic as factories cut prices

9th July, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association is expressing dismay at reports that factories are cutting prices for beef by around 10cent per kilo across the board.

ICSA beef committee chairman, Edmond Phelan says, “this equates to a reduction in the region of €40 per head for animals weighing in at 400kg.  The plainer, dairy-type bulls are coming under some pressure in particular.  I would advise farmers to bargain hard with the factories in the coming days – and also to avoid bringing underfinished cattle to the factories.  If your cattle need another few weeks before they’re fully finished I would urge you to consider holding on to them until they’re in prime condition, or bringing them to the mart where they’re more likely to reach the top price.”

Steers are today (9th July) making between €4.05/kg and €4.10/kg (back from €4.20-€4.25/kg last week), heifers are making between €4.15/kg and €4.20/kg (back from €4.30-€4.35/kg last week), while R&U grade bulls are making €4.10-€4.15/kg (compared to €4.20-€4.30/kg last week) and cows are between €3.40/kg and €3.80/kg, when they were making up to €4/kg last week.

“I would say this change in price is weather-related, given that farmers are more likely to want to sell in bad weather like we have at the moment.  We know that supplies are still tight, we’re not in a situation where factories are oversupplied but they will take every opportunity to cut prices so the bottom line is don’t panic, bargain hard, and consider all your options before bringing underfinished cattle to the factory,” concluded Mr. Phelan.

Time to send strong weanlings to the mart

6th July, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association suckler committee chairman, Dermot Kelleher, says now is the time to be sending strong weanlings to the mart.  

“Any good weanlings weighing 350 kilos and upwards should be sent to the mart now, while prices are strong and you’ll get a good return on them.  There is no point in holding on to them for another while if they’re good enough to be sold now for a decent profit.”

Mr. Kelleher also recommends going to the effort of taking the cattle to the mart, rather than selling them from the farm.  “It’s very difficult to get the best price for weanlings when you’re selling them in your own yard – particularly when cattle are dear, as they are at the moment.  I would strongly advise anyone selling their weanlings to go to the mart where you’ll know exactly what weight they are and you can make sure you get the best price for them.”

Brady calls for crackdown on sheep smuggling

3rd July, 2012

Irish Cattle and sheep Farmers’ Association sheep chairman Paul Brady has called for a crackdown on sheep smuggling from Northern Ireland, which he says is a problem in border areas.

Not alone does the influx of sheep from the north add to the kill here and depress the price for genuine farmers in the Republic, it also costs the exchequer significant sums in flat rate VAT refunds each year.

“A lamb bought in Northern Ireland, smuggled into the Republic, is worth the additional VAT in the south.  At present lamb prices, this amounts to about €5 per lamb,” said Mr Brady.

He suggests that close co-operation between the Gardai, the Department of Agriculture and the Revenue Commissioners could help stamp out the problem.

“For example, the supply of sheep tags should be more carefully monitored.”

“We definitely don’t want to create more bureaucracy, but where the practice of smuggling results in a lower price for our farmers, then it is time for us to act,” concluded Mr Brady.

Comment on ICSA Sheep Farmer Survey at Sheep 2012

2nd July, 2012

Paul Brady, ICSA sheep chairman, said the results which show that so many sheep farmers are actually contemplating expanding their sheep enterprise proves that strong prices are the best guarantee of a sustainable sheep sector.  “Processors, retailers and policy makers must face up to the reality that a good price is all that is required.   Keep the price strong and the supply will take care of itself.”

“It is obviously very encouraging to see 63% of respondents planning to expand and a further 30% planning to hold their current numbers.  For a long time, the sheep sector was marked by dwindling numbers simply because the price was far too low and the ewe premium did not compensate for that.  

Mr Brady did sound a note of caution, however, saying that he would not like to see processors and retailers try to take advantage of any expansion in numbers.  “The key is that growth in supply must be matched by growth in demand.  Otherwise, the risk is that the whole sector could be undermined again, and expansion could come to a halt very quickly.”  

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said that the results show that radical reform of CAP as outlined by Ciolos is not the ideal way of improving the CAP.  “70% of sheep farmers who responded were in favour of the current system of Single Payment.  Radical reform would clearly threaten the viability of many of these farmers who are happy with the current decoupled payment and the strong prices for sheepmeat.

“However, ICSA is conscious that 27% of respondents are unhappy to varying degrees.  That’s why ICSA wants to see a targeted increase in CAP direct payments to active, productive farmers with below average payments, as well as special provision for young farmers.  We believe that a targeted approach is the best way to improve the situation of these farmers rather than the flat rate approach which would see payments spread too thinly and inefficiently.”

ICSA calls for advance on Single Farm Payment to relieve hardship caused by bad weather

2nd July, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association says the recent bad weather means there is now a compelling case for the approval of an advance payment under the Single Farm Payment.  

ICSA president, Gabriel Gilmartin says conditions are very poor in most parts of the country and this is affecting trade and cashflow on farms.  “We have just witnessed the wettest June in Ireland since records began.  Farmers are finding it very difficult to get on with their work under these conditions.  For example, land is waterlogged and silage-cutting has been an ordeal on many farms – in some cases the weather has been too wet to even cut it yet, while some farmers have cut silage but haven’t been able to pick it up, which is a disastrous situation.  The bad weather is going to have huge cash flow implications in terms of higher meal bills, poor thrive and now, the risk that some winter feed won’t be saved at all.”

“In recent years the advance payment on October 16th has become a regular feature but it is important to remember that it is not guaranteed – the government has to present a strong case as to why funding should be released early to farmers.  The hardship being caused by the poor weather at the moment cannot be ignored and I would urge the Minister to put forward the strongest possible case.”

Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, has already announced that he has asked the EU Commission to allow the advance payment this year, stating that he feels there are “real financial benefits for the rural economy” in bringing forward some of the payment by six weeks from the usual date of December 1st.    

Mr. Gilmartin concluded, “it is vitally important that every effort is made to ensure that direct payments end up in the farmer’s account as soon as possible.”

ICSA calls for “targeted and decent increase” in CAP payments to deserving cases under CAP reform

22nd June 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president Gabriel Gilmartin is calling for a “targeted and decent increase” in EU payments to deserving and active farmers, including young farmers, who for one reason or another, do badly under the current historic system.  This is in contrast to the flat rate per-hectare payment being proposed by the EU Agriculture Commissioner.
Mr Gilmartin was speaking at an open forum on the CAP reform negotiations, organised by ICSA, at the Clanard Court in Athy last night (Thursday), which was chaired by ICSA CAP Committee Chairman Billy Gray and featured guest speakers Liam Aylward MEP and Martin Heydon TD.  The meeting came just days after the European Parliament’s agriculture committee debated the ‘Santos Report’ which contains a number of amendments to EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos’ original CAP reform proposals – a debate which was observed in Brussels by a delegation from the ICSA.  
One of the main concerns during these talks, according to Mr. Gilmartin, is the fact that the overall EU budget has yet to be decided – and this means that we don’t know how much will be allocated to the CAP post-2013.  Ideally, the CAP reforms would be decided upon during the Irish presidency of the EU in the first half of next year – however this is looking increasingly unlikely.  Mr. Gilmartin called on the Taoiseach and the Minister for Agriculture to put a “huge effort” into getting agreement on the overall EU budget as quickly as possible, so that progress can be made on the CAP budget.  
Mr. Gilmartin also outlined to those at the meeting that one of the other big concerns is the desire of Commissioner Ciolos to bring in a flat rate payment per hectare – which ICSA says, “might work in theory but not in practice”.  Mr Gilmartin said that ICSA is working to minimise cuts to the Single Payment of active farmers.  He added that increases should be targeted carefully at deserving cases rather than a flat across the board increase for those with no or low payments.  

“The problem is that an across the board flat rate is inefficient because it spreads payments too thinly.  It involves redistributing money to sofa farmers and speculators as well as landowners with vast tracks of land. Meanwhile, active farmers lose out.”   
ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch gave a comprehensive presentation of the current state of play in the CAP negotiations.  Mr. Punch presented case studies showing the financial effect that will be felt by Irish farmers should either the Ciolos or Santos proposals be carried – and also presented the alternative strategy being pushed by the ICSA, which would see less cuts to Single Farm Payments in Ireland, while making the payments more targeted and efficient.  
Ireland East MEP Liam Aylward – who is a member of the European Parliament agriculture committee – outlined that the European Parliament now has co-decision on the CAP reform proposals, which means that your local MEP has a significant influence on the outcome of the negotiations.
Fine Gael TD for Kildare South, Martin Heydon described Thursday night’s meeting as a “really important interaction” with the local farming community and commended the ICSA for organising the event.  
The ICSA’s National Executive will meet next week to formalise the proposals being put forward by the organisation on the CAP reforms and are calling for opinions and suggestions from all members in the meantime so that the best possible deal for Irish farmers can be hammered out at European level.