The slashing of lamb prices by meat processors is damaging for the industry, according to the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA).

Association vice-president Michéal McDonnell referred to the price reductions as "opportunistic" with the potential to create long-term damage for the industry.

Over the last year and specifically in the last number of months, farmers have seen input costs soar with no end in sight, he said.

"On this basis, it is vital that the market returns reflect this new reality in the price paid to farmers.

"While meat processors have for years used every means possible to flatten prices, they need to finally stop the racketeering and act in the best interests of the industry that they rely on," said McDonnell.


McDonnell highlighted a potential problem in the autumn when the store trade starts.

"What we are seeing on the ground is farmer finishers that buy those lambs want them earlier so they can finish off grass at the back end to save on meal costs.

"This could lead to a huge issue come September and October when the big numbers start to come out," he said.

A stable factory price is the minimum requirement to instil confidence in the overall trade and to guarantee continuity of supply to factories going into the winter, he argued.


"Farmers have always shown resilience, but even the most resilient farmer can't keep going when the figures don’t add up.

"With a wool price that is still quite deflated and rising input costs, it is essential for the future of the industry that the market returns are sufficient and reflective of all input and labour costs," he said.

He demanded a positive response from the meat processors through the reinstatement of the price given in early June and a commitment to maintain these prices through this autumn and winter.

Factories reluctant - IFA

Meanwhile, Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) sheep chair Kevin Comiskey said factories are reluctant to pass €7.90/kg for lambs for next week, with prices from €7.70/kg to €7.90/kg the general run.

The IFA argues that this lamb price was not reflecting increased production costs, adding that factories must stand firm in the market place to maximise returns to sheep farmers.

Comiskey added that cull ewe prices are holding firm, with prices ranging from €4.00 to €4.30/kg.

"Spring lamb numbers remain low on the ground and demand for sheepmeat will increase as the Eid al-Adha festival approaches on 9 July," Comiskey said.

He added that lamb prices have come under pressure in the UK and to a lesser extent in France in recent days.

These markets should improve with the increased demand for sheepmeat for the upcoming festival.

He said while lamb prices are still over €1/kg ahead of this time last year, in reality input costs have eroded all of this gain and low-income sheep farms do not have the capacity to absorb this level of cost increase.

The IFA sheep chair has also questioned the ongoing practice by sheep factories of importing lambs from Northern Ireland when prices are under pressure here, while also pointing out the risks given the recent foot-and-mouth disease concerns in the UK.