Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) sheep chair Kevin Comiskey said sheep farmers are shocked at the failure of Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to provide any additional support for the sector in the budget.
He said sheep farming is one of the most vulnerable sectors in agriculture and doesn’t have the financial capacity to absorb the level of input cost increases this year and which will be with us for the foreseeable future.
“The €20m Sheep Improvement Scheme funding in itself is inadequate. Failing to add to it in this week’s budget announcement has left sheep farmers a long way short of the €30/ewe required,” he said.
The Minister, he said, is acutely aware of the challenges facing the sector.
Issues such as inputs costs, the collapse in the wool market and the concerns for the store lamb trade have been brought directly to him throughout the year.
He has chosen not to address these by failing to provide any direct support for sheep farmers, he said.
The IFA had called for supports for farmers finishing lambs over the winter months since earlier this year, including supporting catch crops which would be suitable for finishing lambs.
"The need to offset the costs associated with shearing to address the loss of farmgate value in wool have long since been put to the Minister.
"He cannot turn his back on sheep farmers and must, as a matter of urgency, provide direct supports for farmers finishing lambs over the coming months to underpin the store trade, which is a key outlet for hill farmers," he said.
Comiskey added that at a time when there’s a strong environmental focus in Government policy, it’s astounding there have been no efforts made to maximise the potential of wool as a renewable product with huge potential.
He said farmers must be directly supported for the shearing and presentation of wool to allow this potential be realised.
"The Minister for Agriculture must come forward with his plans to support the sector in a way that makes a meaningful difference to income levels of sheep farmers to ensure the economic viability of the sector," he said.