Union concerned as pig prices continue to decline

UFU annual meeting at Greenmount. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
UFU annual meeting at Greenmount. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Just three weeks after it opened, the European Commission has decided to call a halt to a scheme designed to take surplus pigmeat off the European market.

The latest round of the Private Storage Aid (PSA) scheme saw almost 90,000 tonnes, representing around 4.5% of the monthly EU slaughter taken off the market for up to five months. However, the commission has now taken the decision to suspend the scheme on the basis that “the current decline in EU prices has halted and there are signs of a modest recovery”.

Commenting on the Commission’s decision, UFU deputy president, Ivor Ferguson said that while European prices have stabilised slightly in recent weeks, prices here in Northern Ireland have continued to fall.

“Since the beginning of the scheme, the average price paid to NI pig producers has fallen from 111 pence a kilo to 106 pence a kilo and we are concerned by what will happen to prices now this scheme has been suspended,” said Mr Ferguson.

“Additionally, whilst removing this amount of pigmeat from the market has stabilised European prices for now, it is important that this does not end up as a temporary fix that serves to make things worse when the pork currently in store comes back onto the market during the summer.”

At this stage, Rabobank has issued a new report suggesting that the reopening of the PSA scheme is crucial for the recovery of EU pigmeat prices in the coming weeks. Brussels is also facing calls to reopen the scheme with French officials stating that they will be raising the issue at this month’s Farm Council meeting.

Meanwhile, pig farmers in the Republic of Ireland look set to benefit from a 1m euro boost.

Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune has welcomed details of a 1m euro package for the pig sector announced this week by Minister Simon Coveney.

Mr Coveney was speaking at the presentation of a report from the Pig Industry Stakeholder Group, which sets out over 60 recommendations to address the challenges facing the industry. On the mechanism for the payment the minister confirmed that a flat rate payment will issue to pig farmers under the EU direct aid package for the sector.

Commenting on the package, the Ireland South MEP described it as a boost for pig farmers who should get a flat rate payment of over 3,000 euro each.

She said: “I am delighted to see any kind of supports going their way. This is an important indigenous industry for Ireland that is creating jobs.”