Sheep prices mean Food Harvest 2020 is over – ICSA

1st June, 2012

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association says the targets set out under the Food Harvest 2020 Report for the sheep sector in Ireland are all but dead.

ICSA President, Gabriel Gilmartin, says, “the Report wants us to expand the output value of the sheep sector by 20% in the coming years.  However, the recent downward spiral in prices for sheep and lambs makes all talk of increased production seem ridiculous at this point.”  

“Speaking at our AGM late last year, the Minister for Agriculture said he was confident that the targets could be achieved, given favourable market conditions.  Well, that is certainly not the case anymore.  Farmers are getting horrendously low prices for their stock as a result of a fairly minor increase in numbers.  I would go as far as to say that the drive for expansion proposed by Food Harvest 2020 is all over for sheep farmers.”

ICSA Sheep Committee Chairman, Paul Brady, agrees.  “We have seen a relatively small increase in sheep throughput this year and it’s having a disastrous effect on prices.  At the moment they are hovering around the €4.85 mark for spring lambs.  That’s 16% lower than the price this time last year.”  

“However, the total number of sheep coming through is only up by 5.8% on a year to date basis compared to last year. ”  

“The 5.8% increase equates to somewhere between 38,000 and 40,000 extra sheep.  If the market can’t handle this, you have to ask – what’s the point in talking about further expansion under Food Harvest 2020?  It’s also worth noting that UK throughput is actually down 3.4% on last year.”

Mr. Brady added, “on top of this, factories are only paying up to 20 kilos, which in effect means farmers are actually getting far less.  At the current prices, a farmer selling a 22kg lamb is in fact only getting around €4.40/kg.  This is far too severe of a cut-off point and is making the whole business of selling sheep unsustainable in the extreme.  Especially when you take into consideration the fact that the weaker euro – currently worth 80 pence sterling – makes us more competitive than we have been for some time compared with Northern Irish and British lamb.”

ICSA President, Gabriel Gilmartin concluded, “While the targets under Food Harvest are laudable, the trends in the sheep market in recent weeks really calls into question whether increased production is desirable from a farmer’s viewpoint.”