The latest CSO figures on the drop in cattle numbers show that farmers are still caught in a ‘cost-price’ squeeze, Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president Francie Gorman has said.

He argued that while input costs have reduced by 5.5%, the price paid to farmers has fallen further by 8.2% over the 12-month period, resulting in the terms of trade falling by 2.9% when compared with 2022.

"This is on top of a 6.2% decline in 2022. This means the bottom line for farmers has disimproved by about 9% in the last two years,” he said.

Spiralling inputs

The net effect for farmers is that the shock to the system of spiralling input costs, caused primarily by the Ukraine war, is still having a big impact, Gorman said.

“What the CSO figures show is that others in the food chain have to recognise the pressures on farmers. They cannot expect quality food to arrive on supermarket shelves at a loss to the primary producer.

"The price farmers receive for milk is down 39% from 2022, with cereals down by almost 32%," he said.

Part of the frustration for farmers, he added, is that the cost of regulation is adding to the overall burden on farmers.

“The message from our recent protest is that farmers cannot be taken for granted. Our Government and the [European] Commission have to take this into account when it comes to designing farm policy,” he concluded.