Farmers need industry guidance on the best time to produce spring lamb, according to ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks.
He said sheep farmers producing spring lamb are increasingly frustrated by the confused market demand signals from retailers.
He said advice from Teagasc and Bord Bia was either insufficient or out of date when supermarkets are stocking hoggets rather than spring lamb.
“Farmers who go to the cost of producing spring lamb are no longer in tune with market signals when we see hogget being used in supermarkets later and later into the year before they switch to lamb,” said Mr Brooks.
“Farmers are getting a raw deal by not receiving the proper information to make informed decisions and strategically plan for production.
“This year producers of spring lamb have had to rely on butchers to recognise the premium nature of the product on offer and their willingness to pay in excess of €7.00/kg.
However, this industry cannot rely on the butcher sector alone.”
The ICSA spokesman has called upon Bord Bia, processors, and retailers to issue updated advice on markets available, particularly on the optimum timing for spring lamb.
He said Teagasc needs to review its advice on the economics of early lamb production systems when hogget prices suggest that late lambing is a more profitable system.
Roscommon-Galway independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice rejected meat factory explanations that falling lamb prices were due to the weakness of Sterling and a tough French market.
“The big factories are once again calling the tune,” said Mr Fitzmaurice.
“The fact remains there is a cartel of factories who are controlling prices and they are taking money out of the pockets of farmers who are already under pressure to make ends meat. The Minister for Agriculture needs to look into look into this situation immediately.”
Meanwhile, IFA sheep chairman John Lynskey said hogget finishers should dig in hard and resist the downward pressure from factories on prices and carcase weights.
He said supply figures show that many hoggets have already been sold and remaining numbers will be tight. He also said there will be very limited volumes of spring lamb for another five to six weeks.
Mr Lynskey said an analysis of supplies shows hogget numbers are tightening rapidly and the move on price is an attempt by the factories to force out remaining numbers.
He said last year the lamb kill was up 67,000 head and so far this year the hogget kill is up 29,000 head.
With no additional ewe numbers in the system and Northern imports down last year, this means the hoggets are already slaughtered.
In addition, he said evidence and feedback from hogget finishers around the country is that numbers have already been sold and any remaining supplies will be much tighter than last year, when prices held up well.
Mr Lynskey said factories paid €5.50/5.70 for hoggets this week, but are quoting much lower prices for next week.
On spring lamb, he said factories paid €6.10/6.30/kg this week and again were trying to talk down the trade by the end of the week.
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