Members of the Irish Farmers Association’s Pig Committee met Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue this evening to discuss the future of the pig sector.
The meeting took place at the House of Agriculture on Kildare Street.
A number of pig farmers demanding a bailout for their sector continued their protest outside the building, demanding a €100m bailout for the sector.
Farmers say they suffer losses of thousands of euros every week, due to massive increases in the cost of animal feed coupled with prices well below production costs.
Speaking at the protest, IFA Pigs chairman Roy Gallie said the situation couldn’t be more difficult.
“We are caught in a devastating price/cost squeeze. Some breeders have already slaughtered breeding sows and others are suspending production. They cannot produce with losses of more than €50 per pig and increasing.
The proposal they have submitted to the government, agreed between the IFA, grain traders and the meat industry, would see public funding of €100m go to the sector, of which €50m would be repaid by pig farmers over 14 years.
About 300 farmers have lost an average of €56,000 a month each since last September, due to rising feed and energy costs and low pork prices.
These losses are expected to climb to €71,000 next week when feed prices rise again. Feeding costs represent 76% of the cost of production.
As a result, 18 farmers have already decided to leave the area and the slaughter of animals has started.
Out of 10,000 sows initially intended for slaughter, thousands have already been sent to factories for slaughter.
Farmers now plan to send an additional 11,000 sows to factories.
Analysis by Teagasc, the research and development agency for the agricultural sector, shows that farmers are currently paid €1.40 per kg, but would need to get €2.20 to break even.
As things stand, they lose between €40 and €50 per pig. Teagasc also estimates that 69 on-farm jobs are lost per 10,000 sows, with many other downstream jobs also at risk.
A number of international factors have caused the current crisis. China’s lucrative export market is importing less pork after it restored a level of self-sufficiency following the slaughter of tens of millions of pigs due to an outbreak.
At the same time, the disease in some continental countries means that their pork products cannot be sold outside the EU. The result is market oversaturation and international prices have fallen.
Ireland exports 73% of the pork produced here, for an amount of 944 million euros. The remaining pork is consumed in the Irish market, where consumers have benefited from lower prices over the past year.
Minister McConalogue spoke to protesters outside his ministry this afternoon. He said his officials were evaluating the proposals but he had made no decision on them.
Previously, the Minister had said he was perfectly aware of the issues in the sector and had recently granted the sector 7 million euros, or around 20,000 euros per farmer, to reduce production costs.
“Payments have started flowing to farming families and further payments have been made this week. This is an urgent short-term response to help producers who would be viable in the absence of the dire circumstances. and leave room for a more medium-term adjustment to market signals,” the minister said.
He added that he instructed state bodies Teagasc and Bord Bia to step up their advisory and promotional efforts and also met with banks to discuss the situation.
Minister McConalogue also said they were working at national and European level to support the sector through this current serious challenge.