Lamb import spike from North a 'cynical and shameful tactic' by factories to keep prices low

Photo Brian Farrell
Photo Brian Farrell
Sean McNamara, Chairperson of the ICSA at a recent protest
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

A recent spike in lamb imports from Northern Ireland has been described as a "cynical tactic" and a "shameful" effort on the part of the factories to keep a lid on sheep prices, writes Declan O'Brien.

The latest figures for the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) in the North show 7,625 sheep were exported to the south for slaughter last week.

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While this figure is back 1,630 on the previous week, the numbers are well up on the previous two years. During the week ending August 10, over 9,250hd were imported from the North, up 1,571 on the same week last year and the highest level recorded in 2019.

Sheep imports from the North for the same week in 2017 totalled just 5,627.

"There is no excuse for factories bringing in close to 10,000 lambs a week, a 64pc increase on two years ago," said ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara. "These imported lambs are being used tactically by the meat processors to keep a lid on prices, it's as simple and as underhanded as that."

Mr McNamara accused the meat plants of "sticking the boot into farmers" after enforcing cuts of 30c/kg for lamb over the last 10 days.

"While we accept that a certain amount of imported lamb is required to meet export demands, the numbers coming in now are only serving to undercut the prices paid to Irish farmers," Mr McNamara said.

"It's a cynical tactic and a shameful way to treat a sector that operates on such slim margins."

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However, the LMC noted that sheep exports from the North to the Republic were running 19pc back on 2018 on a year-to-date basis. Up to 420,000 sheep from Northern Ireland are imported into the Republic each year for processing.

Meat Industry Ireland declined to comment on the accusations.

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