£2,000,000 support scheme announced for Northern Ireland pig farmers

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A new support scheme for Northern Ireland pig farmers, worth £2,000,000, has just been announced by the Agriculture Minister.

The scheme, which will open next month, is targeted at pig farmers who have been financially impacted by the effects of weakening markets, increased feed costs and getting pigs moved off the farm for slaughter.

Announcing the scheme, Minister Edwin Poots said: “I am very aware of the challenges pig producers have faced in recent months and I am convinced that the sector needs emergency financial support at this time.

“I, therefore, intend to direct my Permanent Secretary to deliver a support scheme that will target those farmers who have been impacted most.”

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The scheme will make payments to those pig producers who incurred price penalties on pigs that were outside contract specifications from September 2021 to February 2022.

Eligible pig producers will be invited to apply through DAERA Online Services when the scheme opens in April.

Further information and details will be published on the DAERA website at that time.

Mr Poots added: “Many of the issues are due to factors outside the farmers control such as international supply and demand, labour availability in the processing sector, and repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This package will assist producers in the short term but industry must work together and adjust to market signals for the longer term,” he ended.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has welcomed the announcement of a new support scheme for local pig farmers.

UFU president, Victor Chestnutt, commented: “This morning’s announcement from the Agriculture Minister regarding a £2 million support package for our local pig producers is needed greatly and will help to alleviate some of the financial pressure our members are currently under.

“We’ve been engaging with DAERA officials over the past number of months about the deteriorating state of the sector and are pleased that the Minister has recognised the vital need for this support.

“It comes at a critical time when they are on their knees experiencing a crisis like never seen before.

“After months of enduring low pig prices and rising input costs, the impact locally of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine has pushed them to breaking point.

“The new support scheme will help to deal with some of the losses already incurred on farm, but it’s important to stress that it will not cover the losses which our farmers continue to endure.”

Since the war in Ukraine, the market price of feed has soared to levels not seen before.

“The Northern Ireland pig industry is hanging on a knife edge,” Mr Chestnutt added.

“A price increase is still needed from retailers to ensure the security of the industry during this extremely difficult period.

“The NI pork industry has delivered a high-quality product, produced to world leading environmental and animal welfare standards for decades.

“If the sector collapses, our consumers will see a premium, local product disappearing from shop shelves, local food security will take a massive hit having a knock-on effect on rural communities and the NI economy.

“We are in dire need of retailers delivering an immediate increase in prices paid and consumers being understanding and supportive of that so that we can sustain our local pig sector.

“We’re all aware of how vulnerable global supplies have become, we need to be supporting local food production and helping to protect our food producers during these difficult times,” the president ended.

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