IFA sheep chairman, Sean Dennehy, led a delegation to meet ICM earlier this week, following the importation of 23t of sheep meat on Monday morning.
He said factory management were left in no doubt that undermining prices by importing product to fill orders will not be tolerated.
The IFA sheep chairman revealed factory management assured the meeting this product is re-exported, primarily to the EU market; is fully compliant with the regulatory labelling requirements; and does not carry the Bord Bia QA logo.
Dennehy stressed it is up to Ireland’s competent authorities – the Department of Agriculture, the Food Safety Authority and Bord Bia – to assure farmers this product is not misrepresented as Irish sheep meat.
Importation of sheep meat
IFA is demanding the three agencies audit all procedures around the importation, processing and labelling of this product to ensure the integrity of Irish lamb is protected and that no imported products carry Ireland’s labels or QA logo.
“Structures must be put in place to supply our key markets throughout the year and remove the need to use imported product to fill orders,” he said.
He said factories have a key role to play in this and must support the production of early lamb on Irish farms for these markets with price commitments that reflect the costs and labour associated with early lamb production.
Dennehy said current market conditions are strong. He believes the “price cuts attempted earlier this week by factories must be reversed”.
He said numbers are tight, and demand will increase further as the end of Ramadan approaches.
Prices have “started to strengthen” with factories offering €7.50/kg for hoggets and €8.00/kg for lambs. He reported there are “higher prices” for larger lots and groups.
“Factory agents are more active in marts this week, highlighting the demand for sheepmeat that must be reflected in prices paid to farmers.”
Dennehy said lamb prices throughout the EU and the UK remain strong, driven by high volumes of supermarket sales, the reopening of the foodservice sector in the UK and the approaching end of Ramadan.
Lastly, he advised farmers to “dig in, sell hard and demand” the full market value of lambs and hoggets.