Yesterday we brought you the news that Ireland has experienced a record year in 2017 for exports, see here.
Various sectors, such as the sheep and pig sectors, have expressed their disappointment at some of the figures published. John Brooks, sheep chairman of the ICSA, was one of those to voice his concerns. He said it was alarming to see that live sheep exports had fallen by over a quarter last year, compared to previous years. The figures showed that live sheep exports had undergone a deduction of 26% from 2016, which equated to a drop from 48,036 to 35,349.
“There is clearly a need to redouble our efforts to ensure this decline is reversed.” said Brooks.
He said that farmers need to have the option of live exports, as when dealing with only processors, their end margins are often very tight.
“Farmers need to have the option to ship live as an alternative to dealing only with processors who very often squeeze them to the limit.”, he said.
“The live trade is crucial to keep the dead trade honest. To this end, ICSA has been calling for the initiation of a strategic plan to drive the live export trade. Planning would involve the Department of Agriculture, Teagasc, Bord Bia, live exporters and producers all working together in order to develop a coordinated approach to adequately exploit this lucrative market.”, Brooks continued.
Brooks also said the importance of religious festivals to numbers, were proven to be very significant, with over 80% of live sheep exports carried out during Eid al-Adha.
“The significance of this cannot be underestimated. Over the next few years the shifting dates of these festivals demonstrates the amount of forward planning required as each year will have different lambing requirements. To maximise the true potential of this market, the planning needs to start now.”, Brooks said.
He concluded by saying that the ICSA believes the current restrictions around the holding standstill period for sheep prior to export, is what continues to frustrate the trade.
“These restrictions hamper the practicalities of getting exports moving and need innovative solutions. The approach with cattle has been more flexible but the need to export sheep is every bit as urgent.”, Brooks concluded.
Kent weighs in:
Patrick Kent, the newly elected President of the ICSA, also weighed in on the numbers released. He said that although the record numbers for food and drink exports was promising, that Tillage, sheep and cattle farmers not getting their fair share.
“In 2017, suckler farms saw no increase in income, sheep farmers a marginal change and tillage farmers had another bad year. While dairy farmers did have a good year, all other sectors continue to work harder just to stand still while others reap the benefits.” he said.
“The results might be good for the country but there is little return to cattle, sheep or tillage farmers.”, he added.
Kent continued by noting it is farmers who work hardest at producing more and more food, though their share is decreasing all the time.
“Farmers are working harder and producing more but continue to get a shrinking share of the final retail price. The reality is that increased output makes for great headlines but is doing nothing for farmers except significantly increase their workload.” he said.
He said the increased workloads of farmers is only lining the pockets of the major processors, rather than the farmers, as it should be.
“This increased workload provides more and more profits for processors and retailers while cattle and sheep farmers continue to operate with minimal incomes. The endeavour of farmers is making others rich.”, Kent continued.
Mr Kent then called for more details from Bord Bia on the €900 million figure given for non-edible products. Kent noted that this is an interesting new figure which is in addition to the €12.6 billion which refers to consumable food and drink exports.
“ICSA is calling for a precise breakdown on how much animal skins and hides, and other by-products from meat processing such as cosmetics were worth in 2017.” he said.
Kent also called for clarity on what the fifth quarter is actually worth, so it can be assessed how much farmers are missing out on.
“I have been asking for a long time at the beef forum for more transparency on what the so-called fifth quarter is worth. Farmers get absolutely nothing from meat factories for fifth quarter products (farmers only get paid for the meat on two fore-quarters and two-hindquarters) and it is time we had more transparency over what this is worth to them.”, Kent concluded.