The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has called on farmers to be wary of the “hype” and “fanfare” associated with the opening of new markets to Irish sheepmeat.

ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara said that access to new markets has not led to higher lamb prices for farmers in the past and that there has been no indication that putting Irish lamb on US shelves will leave farmers better off.

“In theory, the more markets the better for farmers. But the reality is that farmers have not seen tangible benefits in terms of price when it comes to the opening of international markets,” McNamara told farmers.

“Time and time again we have seen the same story play out; access to a new market followed by the same old hammering of farmers on price week after week,” he said.

€10/kg needed

The sheep chair stated that current input costs should allow farmers to see factory quotes of €10/kg for spring lamb, if processors were to leave farmers with a return.

“With the cost of inputs gone through the roof, sheep farmers should be able to command €10/kg for spring lamb this year to cover their costs,” McNamara went on.

“But that is simply not how it works unfortunately and getting a fair price for the primary producer - one that covers the cost of production – remains as problematic as ever,” he said.

Good news for factories

McNamara commented that factories were likely to benefit from the announcement, which may be different from the farmers who supply them.

“At the present time, most sheep farmers are wondering how they are going to stay in business.

"The opportunity to export to the US will no doubt be great news for the processors and for all others who make money off the backs of farmers.

“But the fanfare associated with opening new markets is only for those who are going to reap the rewards. It is reprehensible that primary producers continually get forgotten with all the hype,” he concluded.