International market opportunities for the Irish sheep sector are redundant without a vibrant national sector, Independent TD Carol Nolan has said.

Efforts to develop new international market opportunities for the sheep sector ‘will not be worth the paper they are written on’ in the absence of urgent action to secure the viability of the sector here at home, the Laois Offaly TD has said.

Nolan was speaking after meeting with representatives from several farming organisations to address what she described as ongoing "price pressures" and "razor-thin margins" that sheep farmers are facing.

“One of the explicit goals of Food Vision 2030 is securing market access and diversifying trade and market opportunities at home and abroad for Irish farmers.

“Many of the sheep farmers I am engaging with, however, are rapidly losing faith in their capacity to respond to any such opportunities that may arise simply because they are struggling to maintain operations locally from one week to the next," said Nolan.

Nolan has pressed Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to prioritise the rollout of a system of direct supports that will keep sheep farmers operating.

In particular, the Minister must address how to reduce the burdens that have arisen from the "40% increase in input costs" that have landed like a financial grenade within the sector, she argued.

“Irish sheep and lamb are a world class premium product that is in huge demand generating approximately €400m per annum," she added.

The Government and the Minister cannot allow that trade to be undermined by its apparent determination to adopt "a penny-wise but pound-foolish" approach to the future of the Irish sheep sector, concluded Nolan.