The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) is pushing Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to set up a sheep taskforce to offer solutions to the low lamb prices being offered to farmers.
The hill group has stated that the taskforce should draw up a medium- to long-term plan for the sheep sector, which would address falling lamb prices and establish current market prospects for the coming months.
This emergency gathering of farming sector stakeholders could also examine other challenges to sheep farmers, the INHFA said, from dog attacks to the possibility of EU aid for farmers.
Speaking on INHFA’s calls, its president Vincent Roddy commented that all players in the sheep sector would need to participate in the taskforce’s discussions.
"Any stakeholder group needs to be driven by the Department of Agriculture and include farmer representation through the relevant farming bodies, involvement from processors and involvement from other bodies, such as Bord Bia, Teagasc, the Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) and the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS),” said Roddy.
“While recognising that the immediate urgency relates to the current price of lamb, any such taskforce should cover additional factors relating to the sheep sector, such as dog control, price of wool and the increasing problem of sheep theft.”
Roddy warned of current price cuts having impacts on lambs entering marts during this year’s store trade.
Co-ops and merchants should also seek to reduce meal costs facing farmers finishing lambs, he commented: “It is in their medium- to long-term interests to support these farmers or many of them may not be here to buy their meal next year.”