One farm group is demanding answers from meat factories as to why they “routinely process lambs from the north ahead of local supplies”.
ICSA sheep chair, Sean McNamara, has said that this practice is causing “serious frustration” amongst local farmers, given the “huge numbers” of live lambs imported weekly.
He said: “Sheep farmers are very angry that imported lambs can jump the queue at factories.”
“The knock-on effect is that local suppliers are having to endure lengthy waits for their lambs to be dealt with, despite arriving at the facility first. The lack of respect shown to local suppliers is hard to stomach,” he said.
“Over the course of a twelve-hour wait, lambs are routinely losing around a kilo in weight – which is one less kilo that the farmer is going to get paid for.”
“It’s galling to see lambs losing thrive as they are made to wait while their imported counterparts are seen to first.”
“It’s hard enough to make any sort of a margin as a sheep farmer, and it’s becoming even harder with this sort of carry on,” he stressed.
Sheep prices in Northern Ireland
The LMC (Livestock and Meat Commission) reported that quotes from processors for R3 grade lambs ranged from 485-490p/kg up to 21kg.
However, the LMC expects quotes to range from 475-490p/kg this week.
A spokesperson for the commission said: “The average NI deadweight lamb price was down 7.2p/kg from the previous week to 441.9p/kg.”
“Meanwhile, the deadweight lamb price in ROI was down 7.9p/kg to 520.2p/kg.”
Exports and throughput
Throughput of lambs last week decreased to 9,643, 196 head behind the previous week’s level when local plants processed 9,839 lambs.
A further 7,016 lambs were exported from NI to ROI for direct slaughter, back 146 compared to the previous week.
In the corresponding week in 2020, 7,284 lambs were exported from NI to ROI for direct slaughter.