Ulster Farmers’ Union pork and bacon chairman, Jonny Cuddy, has warned that the future of the pig industry in Northern Ireland is again in doubt, with already poor prices driven down by a further 2 pence a kilo this week.
Mr Cuddy said that for the past eight months, pig producers in Northern Ireland have lived with prices below the cost of production, with the average price paid during this time around 2 pence per kilo below break-even.
As a result, Northern Ireland farmers are approximately £1,000 worse off per week than this point last year based on a 250 sow herd.
“Producers are already operating at a loss and to cut the price again can only make matters worse for an industry that is struggling to survive in the face of a very difficult market,” he said.
Referring to discussions with processors, he said the UFU was told a major reason for the drop in price was because Northern Ireland has not yet gained access to the Chinese market.
“Additionally, processors claimed that with grain prices down, farmers could afford to take less for their pigs. We consider this unacceptable. Northern Ireland has never had access to the Chinese market, so processors need to explain how a situation remaining as it always has been, can be used to justify a price reduction?” said Mr Cuddy. He added that while it is true that production costs are at their lowest level in five years the price drop has been greater.
“Costs have fallen roughly 15 pence per kilo over the last year, but the price we are paid for pigs has fallen by more than 25 pence. This alone has moved producers from making a profit into a loss making situation.”