There are tighter times ahead for pig producers in Northern Ireland

Pig producers in Northern Ireland (NI) have been enduring a period of stress over the last number of months.

Sunday, 20th June 2021, 2:00 pm
Pigs on Norman Robson's farm, Doagh. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
Pigs on Norman Robson's farm, Doagh. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Financial pressures have been created by several factors.

The ongoing global pandemic certainly continues to leave its mark on the industry. Factory closures due to outbreaks of COVID-19, both on our own shores and further afield, have put a severe dent in our pig producers’ farm profits. A Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) support scheme was successfully delivered to those farmers who suffered depressed incomes following an outbreak of COVID-19 at a local processing plant in Ballymena. A subsequent scheme, yet to be launched, will aim to support farmers who have been forced into taking a hugely reduced price for their cull sows over the last 12 months.

Whilst DAERA have been supportive of the industry to date in facilitating support schemes, any such schemes do not fully reimburse the farmer who endures a proportion of the loss themselves. The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) pork and bacon committee is grateful to Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots and DAERA for their support of the sector thus far.

The current market price for prime pigs is almost 15 percent lower than the same period last year. COVID-19 again, is deemed responsible. Processing plant closures in Great Britain due to COVID-19 outbreaks have directly affected the market price for prime pigs in Northern Ireland The UFU pork and bacon committee have been liaising with DAERA officials around this price depression, they are monitoring the situation.

A perfect storm is almost complete when the soaring price of feed is considered. Current costs of straights mean that producers are seeing increases in feed diets. A typical diet is at least £40 per tonne more expensive than 12 months ago. When combined with the price reduction for pigs, a producers profit/loss account can be deemed to be reduced by 25 percent relative to 2020.

There is real concern that net margins are now in negative territory. Recent online attendees to the UK Pig and Poultry Forum heard of the need for pig prices to rise in order to ensure that production remains profitable given the price of feed.

Whilst the outlook may be challenging, the UFU pork and bacon committee continue to work diligently with the best interests of the industry at heart.