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Sheep farmers being "squeezed out" 01.09.08

THOUSANDS of sheep farmers including some from Inishowen are being "squeezed out" of the industry as severe market conditions hit.
That's according to Independent MEP Marian Harkin who said an estimated 34,000 sheep farmers could go to the wall.
Ms. Harkin who held a clinic in Inishowen at the weekend, called on Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith to lobby the next meeting of the European Council of Agriculture Ministers for urgent assistance.
"Faced with prices from factories which are no better than 20 years ago, while costs for fertiliser have more than doubled in the past year, there is an urgent need for a market price increase of at least €10 per lamb and full implementation of the €34 million programme promised by the Government in May 2007," said Ms Harkin.
She said the "critically important meeting" of agriculture ministers had to be used by Ireland to obtain "tangible financial support" for Irish sheep farmers.
“In this regard the proposal for compulsory electronic tagging should be removed and special aids for hill sheep farmers provided
“If this is not done the very critical contribution hill sheep farmers make to sustaining communities in the most disadvantaged areas of the country will be seriously reduced, a development which will run counter to the stated commitment of the Government to a sustained rural development programme," added the North West MEP.
She said sheep numbers were now at a critical level in Ireland and, if they fell further, could result in the collapse of the entire industry.
“The Irish sheep industry is at a crossroads and it is imperative for the Minister for Agriculture to come out of the September meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers with meaningful support measures for this hard pressed sector of the Irish economy."
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