There is a resilient and determined momentum toward growth within the Irish sheep sector, but this cannot be translated into a sustainable or viable economic model for the future in the absence of direct targeted supports, according to Independent TD for Cork South-West Michael Collins.
Deputy Collins was speaking after he attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine discussion on Development of the Sheep Sector with representatives from Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and Sheep Milk Ireland Ltd.
“The strong sense that I am getting from sheep farmers is that the Minister for Agriculture, and indeed the Department, have been engaged in a prolonged and disingenuous exercise during this entire debate. They are seeking to create the impression that a lot is being done to assist sheep farmers when the opposite is actually the case,” said Deputy Collins.
“They are also selling ACRES as if it is some kind of financial panacea for the challenges facing the sheep sector; which is an infuriating message for farmers to hear.”
“There is an abundance of data supporting the call for direct targeted interventions especially around offering €30 per ewe, for example, but that has been sidestepped and consistently ignored.”
“Now that the margins for some farmers are down to €7, the case is unanswerable and yet still Government refuse to give an inch.”
“This approach must change if the sheep sector is to survive and thrive. The Minister must listen to those who have been warning him about this crisis for some time. If he does not then the income crisis currently plaguing the sector will continue to deepen and he will have no one to blame but himself for such an appalling lack of action,” concluded Deputy Collins.