Two Sinn Féin TDs have called on Minister Charlie McConalogue to consider amending the Sheep Welfare Scheme “in the interests of ensuring animal welfare as a result of the continued depression in wool prices”.
Sorca Clarke, Longford-Westmeath, and Cavan-Monaghan-based Matt Carthy, raised the parliamentary questions last week.
In response, the minister referenced “good” sheep prices of late and stated that global sheep meat prices are “projected to remain good”.
“It is a tremendous source of relief for sheep farmers across the country to see prices where they would like them to be always to ensure a good return for the work they put in.”
Wool feasibility study
“With regard to opportunities in the wool sector, following the allocation of the significant amount of €100,000 in the budget for the review of the potential demand in international markets for wool-based products, such as insulation and fertilisers, I initiated a consultation to determine the terms of reference for such a review.”
He outlined that the DAFM published details of the proposed terms of reference to implement this review on its website in March 2021.
“Interested parties were invited to submit comments on the proposed terms of reference or submissions on the potential market opportunities for wool products on the domestic and international markets. The closing date for submissions was April 2nd, 2021, and we received 38 submissions.”
“The funding of €100,000 is there for research to develop opportunities and potential for domestic use and income from wool.”
“We will be very much guided by the submissions we receive. We will reflect on the suggestions coming out of that to see how we can best utilise that funding to try to ensure there are new opportunities.”
“If any opportunities present, we will look to develop them. It has been a very challenging space for farmers over the last years where wool prices have not been able to cover the cost of clipping. It is certainly a long way from where it used to be.”
“If there is anything we can do to try to identify new uses and sources for such a sustainable product and to deliver an income for farmers, that is what we will do as we identify the ideas and suggestions that will come through the consultation,” he added.
McConalogue said the government will first look to explore the options for developing markets so there would be a price for wool that “can deliver a profit for farmers and ensure the cost associated with clipping was also covered”.
Include clipping sheep as an additional measure
In response, deputy Carthy said: “I thank the Minister for that response. I was speaking with a farmer in the minister’s constituency who told me he was offered €20 for one dozen bags of wool.”
“This tells us how stark the problem is. He indicated that he was relieved not to be charged for having the wool removed. It is very important that this work continues.”
“On the Sheep Welfare Scheme, I thought it was a simple enough process to amend that scheme to include clipping sheep as an additional measure that would bring even a small income to farmers and would be in the interest of animal welfare,” he concluded.