Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Claire Kerrane TD, has called on Minister McConalogue to clarify what measures he intends to bring forward to support Irish sheep farmers.
The call echoes those made by organisations representing the sheep sector, including the INHFA, the ICSA, and the IFA, who have also called for urgent financial supports to be made available.
Speaking today, Teachta Kerrane said:
“It is clear that the sheep sector continues to experience significant challenges, due to the falling price of lamb versus rising input costs.
“Just yesterday, the IFA described the situation as a ‘crisis’, while the ICSA stated that sheep farmers cannot survive on ‘consistently worsening’ prices.
“This is something I have raised time and time again with Minister McConalogue. I have repeatedly asked what he intends to do to support the sector with these challenges.
“While the Minister has acknowledged the difficult conditions sheep farmers are experiencing, he has not indicated what, if any, additional supports will be provided to the sector.
“When I queried him on this in the Dáil in May, he stated that his officials are ‘monitoring the sheep market situation’ and that ‘the Government will continue to make every effort to support the sector’.
“It was previously suggested that the Brexit adjustment reserve (BAR), may be an avenue to explore, which the Minister dismissed.
“We have seen funding under the BAR announced for the Organics Sector, which is welcome. However, as I have said before, it raises questions as to why Sheep Farmers have been locked out from receiving funding under the BAR.
“The Minister has still not provided detail on what terms were looked at by his Department and where a blockage was found for using the BAR to provide funding for the sheep sector.
“In the last week, there has also been calls from the INHFA for a new €9.5m package for Ireland from the European Commission to be used to provide financial support for the sheep sector.
“The support package is intended to be targeted at farmers impacted by adverse climate events, high input costs and diverse market and trade related issues. The Government can top up the allocation by 200%, bringing the total potential fund to €28.5m.
“The Minister has not yet clarified how he intends to utilise this package, but Member States are required to notify the Commission how they will allocate the funding. I have now requested that he publish that information as soon as possible.
“It is crucial that the Minister clarifies how he intends to provide much-needed assistance to the sheep sector, and I am calling on him to do so immediately.”