Fianna Fáil’s Jackie Cahill has warned that Ireland’s pig sector will not survive if it does not receive immediate support.
The deputy has called for a support package to address the crisis in the pig sector and support farmers who are now under “considerable” financial pressure.
He said that other EU countries have stepped in to help pig farmers.
Earlier this week, Cahill told the Dáil: “Poland, France and the Netherlands have stepped in with a temporary state aid framework.”
“This allows farmers in these countries to access funding of up to €290,000 per farmer, which is far in excess of the current de minimis state aid ceiling of €25,000.”
“There is a mechanism within EU regulations to help this sector,” he added.
He believes that Ireland cannot quote EU state aid rules as a barrier to supporting pig farmers.
Covid-19, ASF and Brexit
He stressed that losses are “escalating by the day” as he listed the challenges that Irish pig farmers have faced since mid-2021.
Cahill outlined that the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit, and the Ukraine dispute are “all having a severe impact” on pig farmers.
He told the Dáil: “The first impact of Covid was to reduce the number of staff in processing facilities.”
“In particular, where pig farmers are sending their pigs north of the Border, given a substantial number of our pigs were going north of the Border, they are finding it hard to get these pigs killed.”
“That has had a twin impact in that the pigs are being kept longer on the farm and costing more money to feed them. Their carcase weight is increasing as well. The pig makes less money at the end of the day when it is slaughtered.”
Secondly, he said there is also the threat of African Swine Fever, which now has “advanced” as far as Germany as it crosses Europe.
“This is a serious threat to the pig industry as well. It is having a negative impact on pricing throughout Europe.”
Thirdly, he added that the pig industry has “sorely” felt the impact of Brexit. Before Brexit, he said 50% of all of Ireland’s pig produce was going to the UK.
He told the Dáil that “it was a lucrative market”. “Those exports have dropped 50% since the Brexit agreement.”
“Our bacon has had to go to less attractive markets, obviously making a poorer price.”
Feed, energy and transport prices
He said that farmers have been “significantly” impacted by price inflation. He told the house that grain and feed prices have risen “dramatically” in recent months.
“Feed has gone up by 24%, energy has risen by 100%, and transport costs have risen by 43%,” he revealed.
Continuing, he said: “I was talking to a normal-size pig farmer – a man with 1,000 sows.”
“Feed per month is costing €32,300 extra; energy, €5,298 extra; and transport, €862 extra.”
Cahill said the price has collapsed. “The price, in early 2021, was at €1.90/kg. Today that has gone under €1.40, at €1.38 per kg.”
He said that only 300 pig farmers remain in Ireland, and if action is not taken immediately, we will have “serious losses”.
He added that the pig sector is a specialised industry, but it is our third most important sector, delivering €1 billion to the economy.
At present, he added that estimates indicate that pigs are losing, on average, €35/head leaving farms.
“That farmer I was talking about lately said he is losing €8,000 a week. That is an unsustainable situation,” he concluded.