Farm Ireland

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Poll reveals almost two-thirds of farmers aim to expand flock

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Almost two-thirds of sheep farmers aim to expand numbers over the next five years, an ICSA survey has revealed.

The poll of 250 flock owners was undertaken at last Saturday's Sheep 2012 event at Teagasc, Athenry, Co Galway.

It found that 30pc of respondents planned to hold numbers, while 39pc said they would "expand slightly" and 24pc said they aimed to grow numbers "substantially".

Just 5pc said they planned to reduce their flock. Four per cent of those surveyed said they would reduce numbers "slightly", 1pc said they would reduce numbers "substantially" or get out of sheep altogether, and 2pc claimed they did not know what their future plans were.

The sentiments expressed in the survey reflect the positive outlook in the sector. Bord Bia sheep marketing specialist Declan Fennell told a seminar at Athenry that a predicted 3.5pc growth in sheep numbers this year would take the national flock to 4.8m head.

Paul Brady, ICSA sheep chairman, said the results proved that strong prices were the best guarantee of a sustainable sheep sector.

"Processors, retailers and policy makers must face up to the reality that a good price is all that is required. Keep the price strong and the supply will take care of itself," Mr Brady said.

Mr Brady did sound a note of caution, however, saying that he would not like to see processors and retailers take advantage of any expansion in numbers.

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He added: "The key is that growth in supply must be matched by growth in demand. Otherwise, the risk is that the whole sector could be undermined again, and expansion could come to a halt quickly."

Meanwhile, sheep farmers were also questioned on their attitudes to the single farm payment (SFP) system. A poll found that 70pc of respondents were in favour of it.

Some 35pc were "very in favour" of the current regime, a further 35pc were "somewhat in favour", 19pc were "somewhat opposed", while 8pc were "very opposed". The remaining 3pc were in the "don't know" category.

ICSA president, Gabriel Gilmartin, said that while there was strong support for the existing SFP system, he was conscious that 27pc of respondents were unhappy to varying degrees.

"That's why ICSA wants to see a targeted increase in CAP direct payments to active, productive farmers with below average payments, as well as special provision for young farmers," said Mr Gilmartin.

"We believe that a targeted approach is the best way to improve the situation of these farmers rather than the flat rate approach which would see payments spread too thinly and inefficiently."

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