Poor weather adding to woes of Fermanagh farmers

THE RECENT poor weather has been adding to the many challenges already facing Fermanagh’s sheep and dairy farmers.
The fact the cost of feed, fertiliser and fuel has skyrocketed over the past year is well documented, and now local farmers have been having fork out even more for these necessary inputs as a result the poor conditions.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has called for more support for local farmers, particularly those in the sheep sector, to help them cope with the ongoing challenges.
“Livestock farmers are facing 2023 with uncertainty and little confidence and the lack of a functioning NI Executive is on the minds of cattle and sheep producers. Rising input costs has been one of the biggest challenges for livestock farmers in the past year and will again this year,” said UFU policy officer Daryl McLaughlin.
“While there has been a recent fall in some of these inputs, they still remain extremely high.”
Noting beef prices had kept steady throughout last year, and had risen over the past few weeks, Mr McLaughlin pointed out it had been the opposite with lamb finishers, with the price falling by over £15 per head over the last three weeks.
“Most cattle and sheep farms are in less favoured areas in NI and the most recent spell of poor weather has forced primary producers so purchase more inputs like concentrated feed,” he continued. “Cattle and sheep farms therefore need to be resilient to persist over the long-term in the face of unpredictability and change.
“Both the beef and sheep sectors in NI make a major contribution to the NI economy, particularly in rural areas and producers provide a range of public goods to the environment, biodiversity, prevention of fires, landscape preservation and employment.
“Without direct payments, beef and sheep farming would be unprofitable and this extends over a long period time.
“Whilst other sectors have experienced cyclical challenges, most notably dairying, the overall recent performance has been much more positive.”
Mr McLaughlin noted local farmers got a large proportion of their income from direct payments, with breeding cattle and sheep farms particularly dependent on the support.
“Small farms are more dependent on direct payments than larger farms on average,” he said, adding the UFU was working to highlight the concerns of the sheep sector, who if could be left at a disadvantage to farmers in the South, where there are a range of additional support schemes.
“This includes the sheep welfare scheme and a disadvantage area scheme which is basically Ireland’s ANC scheme,” Mr McLaughlin continued.
“Cattle and sheep farmers need to see a restoration of the NI Executive so that an Agriculture Minister can be put in place to help the sector move forward and get some additional support.”
Mr McLaughlin noted southern Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue, who hails from Donegal, had recently indicated he was open to discussing options for farmers here to avail of funding from the Brexit adjustment reserve.

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