Lismacaffrey farmer Sean McNamara and ICSA colleagues at the protest in Dublin.

RescEWE package needed for sheep farmers, say ICSA

Farmers took their “fight for the very survival of the sheep sector” to the heart of government in Dublin yesterday.

ICSA members, led by Westmeath farmer Sean McNamara, the association’s sheep committee chairman, and their president Dermot Kelleher, gathered at Dáil Éireann and the Department of Agriculture to seek financial support for the crisis-hit sheep sector.

Mr Kelleher said: “We are here today to fight for the very survival of the sheep sector and to fight for economic sustainability of every sheep farmer.

“These are the people who – despite working seven days a week to put food on your table – are experiencing severe financial hardship; they urgently need to be thrown an economic lifeline – not thrown to the wolves.”

Mr McNamara, who farms at Lismacaffrey, added: “The ICSA are demanding an emergency support package of €50 million for sheep farmers – to be funded from the from the Brexit Reserve Fund. We also want the Sheep Improvement Scheme increased towards €30/ewe and an extra €5/ewe for correct presentation of wool.”

Mr McNamara said Brexit brought turmoil to the sheep sector and the ramifications are still being felt.

“The New Zealand lamb imports are a consequence of Brexit; the weakness of sterling since 2016 is a consequence of Brexit; and the importation of more than 500,000 lambs per year in live and carcass form is a consequence of Brexit.

“The purpose of the Brexit Reserve Fund is to mitigate the negative effects of Brexit and we can see no reason for those monies to go unspent – and be returned to Brussels – when sheep farmers are in such dire straits. This government need to do the right thing by accessing this fund and supporting sheep farmers.

“We also want to see real movement of the Sheep Improvement Scheme. A payment of €12/ewe is an insult to sheep farmers and the work they do. As a CAP support it is pitiful; the payment is simply not fit for purpose and must be revised upwards as a matter of urgency.

“Sheep farmers are producing world-class top-quality food in an environmentally sustainably way – all we are asking is that our economic sustainability be given some consideration.

“Our margin per ewe is down more than 80% to just €7/hd. It wouldn’t even buy a pint in Temple Bar. The bottom line is we are not getting an adequate price for our product, nor are we in receipt of enough government support. Both of these issues must be tackled in order to save the sheep sector.”