Spiralling input costs offsets rises in income

16th December, 2011

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) national president, Gabriel Gilmartin has said that while he is pleased with the increased farm income figures from the CSO, he said that escalating input costs are a worrying trend.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that farm incomes have risen 28% in 2011 from 2010 but input costs are up substantially.

“Farm incomes are improving significantly since the record low in 2009 but rising operational costs are a big concern. Take for example the cost of fertilisers and feedstuffs. They have risen 19% and 9% respectively and the concern is that they will remain high but there is no guarantee that beef and sheep prices will hold up,” Mr. Gilmartin said

“However, it is not all doom and gloom, it’s encouraging to see that agriculture is the one area where growth is being registered in the economy. If costs can be kept under control and prices are maintained, there is potential to develop the industry further,” Mr. Gilmartin concluded.

Threat of dogs still a worry for sheep farmers

15th December, 2011

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) sheep chairman, Paul Brady, has warned those thinking of giving the gift of a dog this Christmas should carefully consider the potential consequences to the farming community.
Mr. Brady was speaking on the back of recent reports of dog attacks on sheep which included two German Shepherds attacking and killing sheep in his own flock in recent days.

Mr Brady repeated the ICSA call for all dogs to be identified by means of a compulsory micro-chip.  Farmers are now required to electronically identify their sheep and it seems only fair that dogs owners should do the same.  “Compulsory ID won’t change the dog’s behaviour but it will change owner’s behaviour.  It will make dog owners responsible and liable for keeping their dogs under control.”
“The problem has simply not gone away. Unchipped dogs are a real concern for sheep farmers. Only this weekend, two German Shepherds mauled and killed a number of sheep in my own flock. Sheep is a seriously valuable commodity and people must be fully aware of the full scale of responsibilities that goes along with having a dog, especially in rural areas,” Mr. Brady said.
“Dogs can be a menace to sheep and sheep farmers, many farmers have firsthand experience of unruly dogs terrorising their flock and nothing will change until mandatory chipping of dogs is implemented.”
“Christmas is a prime time for the giving of dogs as gifts but people must be acutely aware of the huge responsibility that lends itself to having an animal. There are too many dogs in the possession of irresponsible owners who are not prepared to look them properly. When dogs are allowed to roam freely without owners knowing where they are, then the sheep is the one that pays the ultimate price,” Mr. Brady concluded.

ICSA appeals for 50% payment to remaining farmers immediately

15th December, 2011

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) national president, Gabriel Gilmartin, has urged the Department of Agriculture to issue 50% of the Single Farm Payment to those who haven’t received any Single Payment yet. This relates primarily to farmers who have already had inspections on their farm and are waiting for maps to be digitised or paperwork to be processed.
Mr. Gilmartin said: “This is the single most pressing and worrying issue for farmers at the minute. How are farmers meant to run a successful business if they are being caught up in unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape with issues that were meant to have been solved last year?
We were given assurances earlier in 2011 that digitisation of maps would not be a concern this year but again we are getting a lot of calls on this. In the digitisation cases, if there is a discrepancy in area, the amount involved will invariably be a small percentage and therefore I cannot understand why 50% can’t be paid immediately.”
“In reality, any clarifications following inspections should now have been sorted. In October, the Minister assured us that 50% of the SFP would be made by 1st December.  It’s fair to acknowledge that the Department has a very good track record in getting out payments to farmers who have no issues and the level of overall payments that are on time is very good.  However, that’s no consolation to farmers who have bills to pay and remain in the dark about when they might get paid.  Payment of 50% of SFP plus DAS payments where relevant would make a big difference with no risk that there would be any over-payments.”

ICSA says exchange rate could hinder export growth

13th December, 2011

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) national president, Gabriel Gilmartin, today (13th December) claimed that the strength of the euro could hinder export growth in the next few years. Mr. Gilmartin, who was speaking at the ICSA AGM & Conference, said that “the determination of the ECB to keep the euro strong serves only the interests of Germany at present.”
He contrasted the policies of the ECB and the Bank of England on quantitative easing which has resulted in the value of the euro going from 69p to 85p in five years. Mr. Gilmartin pointed out that, for beef, the UK is still our most important export market accounting for almost half of all beef exports.   He added that we are also competing with British exports such as lamb on the French market.  “My concern is that the recent EU summit has again completely ignored the way in which the ECB policy is keeping the euro high relative to sterling.”
Mr. Gilmartin suggested that the ambitious expansion plans set out in the Food Harvest report and by the activation groups charged with its implementation may be overly optimistic.
“While there is a renewed sense of confidence, we need to take a balanced view.   Beef production in Ireland cannot expand rapidly in the short term, without a sustainable increase in demand so that a viable price is achieved.
“We need to ensure first that €4/kg can be maintained.  And second, we need to see real progress in developing Brand Ireland and building demand for Irish beef on a wide range of premium EU and other markets.”
However, he concluded with a note of caution that the exchange rate was a real issue for Irish exports. “This is not a suggestion that we should leave the euro, rather it is a call for a review of how the ECB strategy is supportive of a minority of member states at the expense of the majority in the EU.”

Cows and bulls up with factories looking to peel back prices, sheep performing strongly

12th December, 2011

Livestock Price Coordinator for the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), John Cleary, has said that despite some significant difference in price depending on the region and county, factories were still actively seeking good quality stock with bulls and cows the most sought after of types of beef.
For a good mix of steers, the base price being quoted is €3.85 – 3.90/kg, a descrease of 5c from last week’s prices. Factories are quoting €3.95- €4.05/kg for heifers which is no change from last week.  For a mix of U and R grade bulls, the base price is also €4.00 – €4.05/kg, a rise of 10-15c from last week.  Base price quotes for cows stand at €3.10-€3.60/kg. This shows a rise of 10c from the higher quotes. The manufacturing trade is still strong and requiring the low end cuts of meat from cows.

Commenting on this week’s trade, Mr. Cleary said: “For the first time in a number of weeks we have seen a distinct gap in the demand for animals by factories, the north west would appear to be pulling demand while factories in the midlands, south and east and are still very eager for all kinds of stock, most especially bulls and cows. All that said, prices remain strong overall despite some attempts to pull back. We’re getting towards the Christmas cut off so if an animal is close to being ready for the factory then now maybe is the time to pull them into the lorry. After this day week, we’ll see a slowing down of trade before Christmas so the window for going to the factory in 2011 is closing,” Mr. Cleary concluded.
Sheep pries are again strong this week with a rise for lambs. Factories are paying up €5.15/kg for lambs up to 23/kg which is an increase of 10c from last week.  Quotes for ewes are €3.10/kg, no increase from last week or over the last number of weeks.

ICSA misgivings on DAS reduction criteria

9th December, 2011

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) national president Gabriel Gilmartin has expressed strong misgivings about one of the criteria that may be used to achieve the proposed €30 million reduction in Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS) payments, as announced in the budget.  Mr Gilmartin said that the suggestion that farmers with land in both disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged areas should be cut needs to be carefully reviewed.

Mr Gilmartin pointed out that ICSA strongly opposed any cuts to the Disadvantaged Area Payment, especially as there has already been a €37 million cut to the scheme in a previous budget.  “However, ICSA believes that if the cut is inevitable, then the objective should be to preserve the payment for active farmers as much as possible.”

For that reason, ICSA favours the principle that there should be a higher minimum stocking rate. However, the proposal to reduce the rate of payment for farmers with land in both disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged areas was very unfair to active and progressive farmers who have taken on extra land outside their own locality, through rent, lease or purchase.

“Many farmers, in the west of Ireland especially, who are farming on marginal land, and where there is very limited availability of good land, have tended to rent land further a-field and in some cases outside their own county.  These progressive and hard-working individuals will be penalised by this proposal as the rented land is usually non-disadvantaged.”

“I am calling on the Minister to re-consider these cases and ICSA will be making a submission on this in the coming days.”

Mixed result for farmers – ICSA

6th December, 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) national president, Gabriel Gilmartin, has said that the majority of farmers will not be impacted significantly by the Budget but that there were several measures that would be quite important to specific categories of the sector.

“We welcome the 50% stock relief (100% for young farmers) for registered farm partnerships, the €5 million for beef discussion groups, the reduction in stamp duty to 2% and the reopening of the TAMS investment supports. We also welcome the VAT refund for wind turbines,” Mr. Gilmartin said.

“However, we are disappointed with the increase in capital gains tax and capital acquisitions tax to 30% and increases to carbon tax. The increase in capital gains tax is particularly regrettable given that there is still no restoration of rollover relief relating to the purchase of replacement farm land after compulsory purchase or relief for farm consolidation transactions.

“On the taxation side, the changes to capital gains tax have been an attempt to incentivise farm transfer before the age of 66. However, this has been outweighed by increases in CAT and CGT to 30%, as well as the reduction in the CAT threshold to €250,000. The risk is that increased rates will discourage farmers from making any move during their lifetime.

“The increase in carbon tax is unfortunate notwithstanding the delay on imposing the increased rate on “green” diesel to May 2012 and the double income tax relief. A number of problems may arise with this approach including the fact that the higher rate will coincide with the peak silage-making season. Also it is unclear as to how the double income tax relief will work in practice and whether it will apply to agricultural contractors. At least the relief shows an understanding of the need for competiveness in terms of fuel costs. Rural dwellers in general will be unhappy with the increased carbon tax and it will add to the transport costs for all farm inputs and outputs leading to a lowering of competitiveness,” Mr. Gilmartin continued.

“The €5 million allocated to beef discussion groups is a welcome move and we commend the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine for this. We look forward to its implementation at the earliest possible date.

“The €30 million cut to Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS) and the 10% cut in REPS 4 payments are the worst parts of the Budget but we are hopeful that active farmers will be spared the brunt of the cuts to the DAS. We would now urge Minister Coveney to ensure that all farmers who have exited REPS 3 in 2011 are catered for by opening AEOS in 2012,” Mr. Gilmartin concluded.

Mixed signals for agriculture from Government – ICSA

5th December, 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) national president, Gabriel Gilmartin, has described the Government’s announcements on expenditure cuts as providing mixed signals to the farming community.

“While the announcements are not as severe as previously anticipated, the fact remains that a cut of €105 million to  the agriculture budget will translate into some cuts to farm income, particularly with a €30 million cut in Disadvantaged Area Scheme and a €19 million cut to REPS,” Mr. Gilmartin said.

“The problem is that agriculture has been asked to take 4.7% of the total €2.2 billion expenditure this year even though it only accounted for 2.8% of gross voted expenditure in 2011. What’s worse is that more of the same is predicted for next year and the year after. Government must realise that ongoing cuts to farm schemes will deter farmers from investing with a view to expanding exports in line with Food Harvest 2020 targets.

“Nonetheless, ICSA is pleased that the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme has remained intact. It also appears that there will be some effort made to ensure that active farmers are spared from the worst of the Disadvantaged Area cuts. This will need further clarity but ICSA believes that the focus on eligibility rather than cutting everyone is a better approach,” Mr. Gilmartin concluded.

Beef prices slip back as kill rate rises, sheep prices solid

5th December, 2012

Prices for factory beef have slipped back in the past few days from last week’s record highs with higher than normal kill rates the reason for this according to the Livestock Price Coordinator for the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), John Cleary.

For a good mix of steers, the base price being quoted is €3.85 – 3.95/kg, a descrease of 10 – 15c from last week’s highs. Factories are quoting €3.95- €4.00/kg for heifers a slight fall from last week.  For a mix of U and R grade bulls, the base price is also €3.95 – €4.00/kg, 10c decrease on last week.  Base price quotes for cows stand at €3.15-€3.55/kg. This is only a slight fall from last week due to the fact that the manufacturing trade is still looking for low wne meat.

Commenting on this week’s trade, Mr. Cleary said: “Prices have slipped back as much as 10-15c for high spec cattle this week. The main reason attributed to the ease back on prices is a higher than normal kill rate for the week. People were tempted by the fantastic prices available to them over the past number of weeks. High end bulls and heifers are back to below the €4/kg mark for the first time in a long time yet cows are still holding strong due the maintained demand from within the manufacturing trade for low end cuts of meat.

“It’s far from doom and gloom however. Prices are still strong in the county, saying that there are avenues to be explored to making more money from looking outside the county. Saying that, it’s not worth the transport cost to enter into excessive travel to get a few extra cent per kg. The word on the ground is that prices will remain as they are or even increase in the next week or two so farmers shouldn’t be disheartened by the news this week,” Mr. Cleary concluded.

Sheep prices have continued upwards in the past couple of weeks after a period of bottoming out. Factories are paying up €5.05/kg for lambs up to 23/kg. There were scarcities at the tail end of last week that brought prices up to €5.10/kg but this has eased back now. Quotes for ewes are €3.10/kg, no increase from last week.

Farmers and factories need to tackle fluke – ICSA

2nd December, 2011

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), sheep chairman, Paul Brady, has said that due extremely wet weather conditions presently, farmers need to be proactive with tackling liver fluke and factories need to provide liver reports on slaughtered sheep to help stem the spread of fluke.

“The wet weather we are experiencing at the minute is prime conditions for the spread of liver fluke. Farmers need to dose for liver fluke as well as dipping within the set out timeframe. If fluke goes undetected in a flock it could have enormous financial consequences for the farmer,” Mr. Brady said.

“Liver fluke is a danger to the stock and by factories providing an accurate liver report from their vet it could mean the targeted and strategic eradication of it from a flock. The onus is on both the farmer, through good husbandry to ensure a fluke free flock but the factories can also aid this process by providing accurate reports on the slaughtered animals’ liver,” Mr. Brady concluded.