Farm Ireland

Sunday 17 December 2017

Sheep prices slump kills 2020 harvest target hopes

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Food harvest targets of a 20pc increase in sheep output value by 2020 are all but dead in the face of falling sheep prices, the ICSA has claimed.

Sheep factory prices are currently hovering around €4.85/kg, some 16pc lower than the same time last year, which the farm organisation says is linked to the 5.8pc increase in sheep throughput compared to 2011.

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said the recent downward spiral in prices for sheep and lambs made all talk of increased production seem "ridiculous".

"Farmers are getting horrendously low prices for their stock as a result of a fairly minor increase in numbers," he said.

"I would go as far as to say that the drive for expansion proposed by Food Harvest 2020 is all over for sheep farmers."

Mr Gilmartin maintained that falling sheep prices called into question whether increased production was desirable from a farmer's viewpoint.

"The 5.8pc increase equates to somewhere between 38,000 and 40,000 extra sheep. If the market can't handle this, what's the point in talking about further expansion under Food Harvest 2020?" said ICSA sheep chairman Paul Brady.

He added that the price pressure was being exacerbated by factories cutting the carcase weights on which prices were being calculated.

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"At the current prices, a farmer selling a 22kg lamb is in fact only getting around €4.40/kg," he pointed out.

"This is far too severe a cut-off point and is making the whole business of selling sheep unsustainable in the extreme."

However, Declan Fennell, sheep market analyst from Bord Bia, said that demand from France for lamb was a key factor in the current slump in prices. Demand from France was weaker than usual for the April-May period due to a combination of bad weather and bank holidays reducing consumption.

"There are signs of some stability returning to Irish prices," he said. "The outlook for French demand is looking more positive for the coming weeks."

Mr Fennell added that Bord Bia promotional lamb campaigns in France had been brought forward by several weeks and it would now include an extensive TV advertising campaign.

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