Union seeks support from MLAs on prices

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Concerns over the widening disparity in pig producer prices paid in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK have been raised at Stormont.

Ulster Farmers’ Union deputy president Ivor Ferguson and the organisation’s pig committee chairman Jonathan Cuddy met with members of the Stormont agriculture committee yesterday (Tuesday).

“Last summer the piece gap in favour of producers in GB was in the region of five pence per kilo,” Mr Ferguson told Farming Life.

“Today that figure stands at eighteen pence, which is intolerable. Local pig farmers will begrudgingly accept a price gap of around five pence per kilo, given that pork and bacon produced in Northern Ireland must be transported to markets in Britain. But they see no reason whatsoever why processors in Northern Ireland are not paying a much more competitive price for Red Tractor accredited pigs at the present time.

“What’s more, locally produced pigs are dying in debt to the tune of five pence per kilo at the present time. The breakeven price to produce a finished pig is in the region of 128 to 130 pence per kilo deadweight. The best price on offer in Northern Ireland this week is in the region of 123 to 125 pence.”

The Union is hoping that the agriculture committee will now contact pig processors in Northern Ireland to find out why the current pig price differential is so high and to identify the ways by which it can be reduced.

“And it is important that these steps are taken immediately,” Mr Ferguson confirmed.

Responding to these claims Karro Food Group chief executive Seamus Carr said that a number of important dynamics are impacting on the UK pig market at the present time.

“This is not a straightforward matter,” he added.

“We are endeavouring to pay the best possible price for pigs. But our cause is not being helped by virtue of the fact that pig processors in Northern Ireland cannot supply the Chinese and Australian markets.”

Mr Carr also confirmed that he will meet with members of the Union’s pig committee to discuss all of these matters in detail.

“This will happen in the very near future,” he said.

“It’s simply a matter of finding a date that suits everyone involved.”