INHFA calls for the establishment of a sheep taskforce to address deepening crisis in sector

The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) have written to Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue seeking the establishment of a sheep taskforce to address the ongoing fall in lamb prices and to develop a medium to long-term plan for the sheep sector.

In seeking the establishment of the Taskforce, INHFA President Vincent Roddy stressed the need for parties across the sector to work together in developing a plan that can deliver for farmers who are the critical element of the industry.
Roddy stated, “Any stakeholder group needs to be driven by the Department of Agriculture and include farmer representation through the relevant farming bodies, involvement from processors and involvement from other bodies such as Bord Bia, Teagasc, ACA and ICOS.”

While recognising that the immediate urgency relates to the current price of lamb any such Task Force should, he continued “cover additional factors relating to the sheep sector such as dog control, price of wool and the increasing problem of sheep theft.”

In their letter to Minister McConalogue the association identified the following factors

• Current lamb price and prospects for Spring 2023, including possible market opportunities.
• Medium to long-term sheep price with a focus on existing and new markets and availability of stock.
• EU and International Trade agreements.
• Possible support through EU Exceptional Aid Fund.
• Sheep Improvement Scheme and relevant health/welfare issues.
• Sheep worrying and control of dogs.
• Wool – While we are aware of the establishment of an All-Ireland Wool Council it will be important that this Taskforce would not duplicate work already in progress. However, we are of the view that there is a substantial area of work that can be undertaken which will not be covered by the new Wool Council.

With an ongoing fall in the price of lamb the INHFA President cautioned how this could well impact the price of store lambs next autumn and stressed the need for processors to re-evaluate their quotes stating “that we need to see a recovery in price to reward the farmer who purchased those lambs last Year.”

In addition to this he also called on the Co-ops and merchants to look again at the price of their meal with a view to an immediate reduction adding that “it is in their medium to long-term interests to support these farmers or many of them may not be here to buy their meal next year.”

Concluding, the INHFA Leader referred to the low confidence levels that pervades the sheep sector and stressed the need for action and a strategic plan that farmers have confidence in. A Task Force as outlined can he stated “be the vehicle to progress this.”