Sheep prices are currently 23c/kg behind last year’s levels or almost €5/lamb, Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) sheep chair Kevin Comiskey has said.
This, he added, is despite the enormous input cost increases of over 30%.
The Department of Agriculture’s annual review and outlook 2022 clearly sets out the crisis facing sheep farms, as market prices fail to reflect the higher production costs on farms, Comiskey argued.
"This is further compounded by the failure of the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to provide targeted meaningful supports to the sector to offset the input cost increases," he said.
The sheep sector, he said, is in crisis and the store lamb trade, particularly lighter stores, is under severe pressure.
"Farmers who bought stores earlier in the year are not getting the market returns needed and all sheep farmers face a critical income situation,” he said.
Up to 120% of income on sheep farms is from direct payments and with a projected 20% reduction in market returns, this dependence will increase significantly in 2022, he said.
The IFA identified these concerns to the Minister for Agriculture earlier this year as input costs increased, but no action has been taken.
Comiskey said immediate direct supports are needed to restore confidence, including a targeted payment for farmers finishing lambs and a payment of €30/ewe.
"The Minister cannot shy away from supporting our second-largest farm sector, which is the only source of vital economic and social activity in some of the most rural parts of the country while also adding to environmental objectives and driving biodiversity," he said.
Comiskey also called on rural TDs to come out in support of sheep farmers and ensure the Minister comes forward with immediate support for the sector.
“€12/ewe does not cut it. We need €30/ewe and targeted payments for finishing lambs over the expensive winter period. The Department’s own annual review highlights the seriousness of the situation and the Minister must now act,” he concluded.