The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA) has pressed Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to convene a meeting of the sheep vision group as soon as possible to examine what is going on in markets and what is the outlook.

ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara said that sheep farmers are getting very frustrated at substantial price drops in recent weeks at a time when other markets just seem to be more and more inflationary.

“A lot of work has been done to open international markets as well as develop EU markets, but it does not seem to be yielding results for the sheep sector.

"At current lamb prices of around €6/kg, there is no profitability in sheep farming at a time when all input costs have gone off the charts.

“Some markets such as the USA, Sweden and other EU destinations have the potential to deliver significantly improved returns to farmers but there seems to be various reasons why this is not being developed," he said.

Better prices

He argued that farmers want to know the score and they need better prices.

"We need to look at how the less intensive, biodiversity friendly system of sheep farming can be better communicated and monetised.

"The carbon footprint of most sheep farms is low, and this is not being recognised," he added.

Full engagement from sheepmeat processors on this is required, according to ICSA.

The sheep processing sector will not be sustainable if sheep farmers here cannot make a profit and already, there are signs of significant culling of ewes, McNamara added.

"Farmers are also dismayed by the apparent lack of demand from processors but at the same time, there are significant numbers coming in from the north.”

“We need a good and frank exchange of views in an appropriate forum rather than shouting outside the gates and the ideal way is through the Sheep Vision group," he said.