Farm leaders battling to postpone compulsory tagging plan
Farming organisations were battling this week for some formula to delay the imposition of electronic (EID) tagging of sheep and to shift the cost of the measure off farmers.
Little progress was made in discussions when Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed, and senior officials from his department met with farmer representatives last week to discuss the matter.
However, farmer sources conceded that Minister Creed was unlikely to row back on his decision and future discussions are expected to centre on the proposed start date for EID, and some means of offsetting the costs.
Sheep farmer anger over the imposition of EID spilled on to the streets of Dublin yesterday when the ICSA held a protest outside the Department of Agriculture's headquarters in Kildare Street.
ICSA sheep chairman, John Brooks, blamed the protest on what he described as Minister Creed's "unilateral decision" to impose mandatory EID for all sheep from October 1.
Mr Brooks said the move to introduce EID could not be justified either from a quality assurance or market access standpoint, and that farmers will have to carry the additional cost of the measure.
"There is neither rhyme nor reason to the minister's decision to impose mandatory electronic tagging on lambs going direct to the factory. The traceability requirement is that they are tagged before they leave the farm. A few hours later, the lamb is processed with the ear disposed of and the costly electronic ear tag is in the skip," Mr Brooks claimed.
The ICSA pointed out that the measure will cost farmers €1 per animal slaughtered annually or €2.5m across the sector each year.
Mr Brooks claimed that this equated to 7pc of sheep farmers' profits, given that the margin on each lamb is around €14.
Meanwhile, the IFA has agreed to make a submission to Minister Creed on EID over the next fortnight.
Following what were described as sharp exchanges between IFA and Department officials at a meeting last week, IFA president Joe Healy and sheep chairman Sean Dennehy insisted that the cost of any new EID programme could not be carried by sheep producers.
Mr Healy said the implementation of electronic tagging had to be pushed back, and that central reading points for EID tags would have to be installed in the marts and the factories before the system became operational.
The INHFA has warned that a start date of October 1 this year for EID would cause major disruption to the store lamb trade and would have to be reviewed.
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