Stormont Agriculture Committee chairman William Irwin MLA has welcomed a delegation from the Ulster Farmer’s Union to Stormont to address the ARD committee on the current crisis affecting the pig industry in Northern Ireland.
Speaking after what he described as a “very useful exchange” Mr Irwin said the pig industry was currently in a very difficult position with a number of factors combining to create the “perfect storm” for producers.
He stated it had been a very worthwhile and useful exchange and an opportunity to get into the detail of how pig producers are being affected.
He added: “The Russian import ban, coupled with a weakening Euro allowing for cheaper imports to the UK, is having a growing detrimental effect on our pig industry here in Northern Ireland. Producers are facing an ever tightening financial outlook whereby the same product in mainland Britain is fetching £13 per pig more than what is offered here in Northern Ireland and that is simply not sustainable in the short term.
“There has always been a differential in price per kilo between the UK main land and Northern Ireland but with a gap currently of between 15-18 pence per kilo, that margin does make producers question why their product is worth so much less compared with mainland prices. Add to the price differential the increased costs of feed in Northern Ireland and other input costs and you can clearly see why our producers are concerned at the impact of this current crisis.
“There is certainly in my view some room for improvement from our processors, in terms of offering a much fairer deal for Northern Ireland producers. Our pork product is of the very highest standard, indeed at a much higher standard than much of the product coming in at cheaper prices from other EU member states, yet our local producers who have complied with directive after directive still find themselves worse off. The committee fully shares the view that the pig industry needs to see some stability to allow the sector to recover and look towards growth.”
Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan said that following the meeting, he spoke to agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill, about what can be done to support pig farmers.
“The minister is working hard to identify and open up new markets for the North’s pig farmers such as Russia, the United States, Australia and China. She has already travelled to China twice and is willing to do so again to help the pork industry. We will also be raising the concerns of pig farmers with EU agricultural commissioner Phil Hogan when we meet him next month.”
He said they would also be exploring options in relation to the Farm Business Improvement Scheme.