The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has said that falling sheep prices are leaving the sector under immense pressure and that processors urgently need to provide fair lamb prices to improve the local market.

The union said that the sector is in an uneconomical state, as sheep farmers are not making enough of a return to cover their input costs.

UFU beef and lamb chair, Pat McKay, believes Northern Ireland sheep farmers are currently facing “unprecedented financial pressure”, referencing the current price of lamb finishing pellets as a factor, which are approximately £405/t compared to £290/t this time last year.

“Meanwhile, lamb price locally has collapsed by over £15 per lamb in the last three weeks, when the price needs to be rising weekly to cover increasing input costs. Prices are now lower than this time in 2022,” he said.

“The lamb market in the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain has also come under significant strain. We encourage sheep producers to shop around to seek the best price and increase their margins were possible.

“There is growing concern about the impact current trade will have on this year’s early spring lambs.

“We’re urging processors and retailers to step in and support the local sheep industry urgently.”

McKay warned that the sheep sector cannot be sustainable if it is not profitable and said “it must be recognised that farmers are also consumers like everyone else”.

“The cost of living is rising alongside input costs on-farm, how can farmers be expected to produce food to world leading standards and receive less than it costs to produce as a return?

“It is simply not viable nor is it fair, especially taking into consideration the extra work and feeding they are currently doing to care for livestock in the snow.”