Kerry sheep farmers take a stand over falling lamb prices
KERRY sheep farmers, who are under increasing financial pressure because of falling lamb prices mounted protests outside Dunnes Stores, Tesco and SuperValu outlets in Tralee on Monday morning.
Monday's protests by a group of around 20 IFA members from across Kerry were the latest action in a national campaign organised by the IFA to highlight the drop in prices paid by factories for lamb.
Lamb prices have fallen by almost €2 a kilo since Easter and farmers are laying the blame on retailers who they say are profiting while farmers are struggling.
Caherdaniel based Lamb farmer Kevin O'Sullivan said he is struggling to survive after seeing the price of lamb he receives at processing factories fall from €6.50/kg in April to €4.80/kg this week.
"The price we're getting fell from €6.50 at Easter down to €4.80 now. Every year it's the same story and we cannot survive at these prices," he said.
Mr O'Sullivan added that Government regulations mean he is restricted to breeding and selling Scotch and Cheviot breeds which don't command the same premium as other breeds and puts him at a serious disadvantage.
The protests in Tralee were led by Kerry IFA chairman Sean Brosnan who said retailers had a "corporate responsibility" to ensure farmers are paid a fair and viable price for their produce.
"The fall in prices mean many of our members are struggling to get by," he said.
"Lamb prices have dropped in factories. This is unneccessary. We want to put pressure on retailers and factories to pay a sustainable price that would give farmers a margin above the cost of production," he said.
"The farmer's price for top quality lamb has been slashed from €5.70/kg to quotes of €4.80/kg in a matter of just two weeks. This is a price cut of close to €20 per lamb and will wipe out almost all the farmer's margin for his entire year's work in just a few days," Mr Brosnan added.
"There is real frustration on the ground at farm level when farmers see processors cutting prices and then they look at the price in the supermarkets," he said.
"We don't want to harm business or disturb people as they go about their business but we need to highlight the issue."
While the Tralee protests passed off largely without incident there was a brief exchange between the farmers and management at Dunnes Stores' North Circular Road outlet after management approached the protestors and asked them to move away from the door of the building.
The IFA has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, to tackle both the meat factories and the retailers, and insist that they provide reasonable payments to farmers.
Both Tesco and Dunnes Stores said they were aware of the farmers' complaints and would give them consideration.