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HomeFarming NewsSheep farmers ‘completely at the mercy’ of factories’ ‘underhanded tactics’
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Sheep farmers ‘completely at the mercy’ of factories’ ‘underhanded tactics’

ICSA sheep chair, Sean McNamara, has reiterated his call for a dedicated sheep taskforce to “tackle the lack of transparency within the sector”.

His appeal comes following Irish Country Meat’s importation of over 20t of sheep meat last Monday morning (April 26th).

Calls for dedicated sheep taskforce

“While factory bosses are telling us their fridges are full, 1,100 whole lamb carcasses were brought in through Rosslare Port this week – from the UK – and delivered to a prominent Irish processor in the southeast,” McNamara commented.

“That’s around 26 tons brought in purely to depress prices paid to local farmers, and they deserve an explanation for this,” he said.

“This incident highlights, once again, that primary producers are the weakest link in the chain. Sheep farmers are completely at the mercy of these underhanded tactics, which are designed to have an immediate impact on prices paid.”

Opportunity for local suppliers to fill orders

He said the ICSA is demanding answers around why this product is coming in and which markets they are serving.

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“We are also questioning why factories are not giving local suppliers the opportunity to fill these orders if they genuinely believe there is a ‘need’ to import live lambs and carcasses on an ongoing basis.”

“It is not only processors who have questions to answer, the Department of Agriculture, Bord Bia and the retailers need to clarify their positions on this and other contentious issues such as weight limits.”

“The value of sheep exports in 2020 was €360 million; that is not an insignificant sum, and primary producers in the sheep sector are justified in demanding a forum where stakeholders can work collaboratively in a transparent manner.”

‘Support a consistent 52-week supply’

Earlier this week, That’s Farming contacted Irish Country Meats regarding the matter above.

A spokesperson confirmed that the meat processor imports carcase lambs from other ROI/NI & UK locations to “support a consistent 52-week supply” for its customers.

A spokesperson said: “Irish Country Meats works closely with our direct farm suppliers & producer groups to market Irish lamb across the world.”

“Irish Country Meats has built a strong export retail customer base servicing over 25 markets that sits alongside our developed domestic market business.”

“To support a consistent 52-week supply for our customers, the company’s lead boning hall in Camolin, Co Wexford, sources carcase lambs from other locations in ROI/NI & UK.”

“The development of a complimentary European export retail business has helped to remove the historical exposure to a volatile export carcase trade & has demonstrated a sustained & improved return to Irish farmers,” the spokesperson concluded.

The IFA, which brought the matter to light earlier this week, met with Irish Country Meat representatives.

Its sheep chairman, Sean Dennehy, said factory management were left in no doubt that undermining prices by importing product to fill orders will not be tolerated.

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