Irish pig farmers will converge on the Department of Agriculture this morning for a protest by the Irish Farmers’ Association seeking a government bailout for the sector.
Farmers are asking for an envelope of 100 million euros, half of which will be reimbursed over 14 years.
About 300 farmers have lost an average of €56,000 a month 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.
Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue said he was acutely aware of the sector’s challenges and recently gave the industry €7 million, or around €20,000 per farmer to help reduce the costs of production.
“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.