The president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association (ICSA) has reacted strongly to the figures from Teagasc which show that only one in five suckler farms are viable.

Kent has said that while Brussels "has moved heaven and earth to deal with the dairy crisis, the Teagasc figures again emphasise that the cattle and sheep sectors are in real trouble.

"This emphasises that ICSA is absolutely correct to insist that the latest Brussels bail-out package cannot be exclusively for dairy farmers,” he said.

The figures from the report show that the most at-risk sectors in terms of viability are in drystock farming, particularly cattle-rearing farms. Only one in five of cattle-rearing farms are deemed viable, with 28% of other cattle farms and a quarter of sheep farms viable.

I am calling on retailers to explain to consumers why they are happy to exploit farmers in such a disgusting fashion

“While 2015 was a tough year for dairy farmers with only 76% viable, this pales in comparison with only 20% viable suckler farms, 28% beef and 26% sheep," Kent continued.

"lt must be remembered that the threshold for viability is calculated at a rock bottom level of minimum agricultural wage plus 5% return on investment. It is outrageous that the height of our ambitions for farmers is the minimum wage when you realise that most farmers are highly experienced and highly skilled."

"Disgraceful statistics"

Kent added that the statistics are "disgraceful" and suggest that greedy processors and retailers "should hang their heads in shame".

"I am calling on retailers to address this issue in terms of their corporate social responsibility objectives and to explain to consumers why they are happy to exploit farmers in such a disgusting fashion," Kent said.

"It is clear that it is the erosion of a viable pricing structure for the primary producer that is the central cause of these figures."

Kent also reiterated his desire for Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to ensure that cattle and sheep farmers get a fair share of the Brussels rescue package.

“Apart from this measure, the Minister needs to move heaven and earth to get more live exports going as fast as possible, and restoration of the full disadvantaged area payment (ANC) must be fast tracked and made a key priority.”

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Only one in five suckler farms viable - Teagasc