C: Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) via Twitter

Irish pig farmers warn that sector is ‘on verge of total collapse’

Many of Ireland’s 270 pig farmers could face financial ruin within weeks, farmers have warned, as the cost of production soars.

Currently, the cost of production is €2.49/kg while the finished pig price is €1.72/kg.

Tipperary pig farmer Michael Monagle, in an interview with The Farmer’s Journal, said the Irish pig industry is on the brink of collapse, with farmers unable to continue to sustain losses. Mr Monagle explained how millions of euro is being lost on Irish pig farms on a monthly basis, and said it’s difficult to envisage a comeback for the sector as things stand.

According to Meat Industry Ireland, the pigmeat sector is the third most important component of the Irish agri-food industry, accounting for more than €570m exports in 2015 alone.

There are 320 commercial pig producers in Ireland producing 3.6m pigs annually, meaning the Irish pig industry makes a valuable contribution to farm income, regional employment and export earnings.

“The big issues at the moment are financing the farm [and] keeping it going,” Mr Monagle told the publication.

“Normally you’d always have challenges with live animals; those are farming challenges. This is a further challenge in business terms if you like; to be just able to keep working capital adequate, and that’s difficult.

“Feed costs, traditionally, would have been 65-70 per cent of our total cost, and today, now, that’s 100 or 105 per cent of our total cost. The losses, if you take an average sized farm, well reported to be around 600 sows integrated, that farm at the moment is losing in the region of 90,000 a month. 90,000 plus, and that’s obviously unsustainable 

“There’ll be a lot of other farmers who are dependent on creditors to extend credit and basically, they’re looking to the market then to return a better price for their pig. And it’s basically on a hope basis that most people are working at the moment. There’s nothing significant to suggest that the market is going to get above the cost of production.”

Calling on processors, retailers and the Government to intervene, Mr Monagle said a meaningful change in cost per kilo wouldn’t be detectable at a retail level and must now be implemented.

“The consumer is going to have to pay more for the product, but the farmer is going to have to get a bigger share of the final price. It’s absolutely ridiculous to think that the farmer is only taking home 12 or 13%. We have to get the price of the product up, and we have to get the price of the product up immediately. 

“One euro a kilo extra coming back to the farmer won’t be detectable at retail level. On the just general day-to-day financing, this is the one that’s becoming more difficult for everyone.

Everyone that’s a service provider to the industry will indicate that they’re not going to be able to stay providing the product, so the thing is going to blow up […] if we don’t get an improved price.”

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) on Thursday highlighted price increases with regards to pig meat on supermarket shelves, and said that farmers now expect processors to return “a substantial increase” to them immediately. 

Taking to Twitter to share recent cost figures, farmer Shane McAuliffe said it must be recognised that farmers are now “weeks away” from running out of money completely as he joined others in pleading for tangible supports.

“Will processors, retailers and Government help us survive?” he asked.

“Think about that for a second. Every pig sold is costing a farmer €67. On our farms we sell 1,300 pigs a week. That accounts to a weekly loss of €87,000. This is the reality facing our sector and we are on the verge of total collapse,” he added.

There have been a string of protests over recent months as the crisis for pig farmers continues unabated. Pig farmers last week warned they were “on the road to bankruptcy” as they protested at a secondary processor, Hilton Foods, in Drogheda, Co. Louth.

The protest was a sign of the further intensification of their long-running campaign to ensure the price paid for pigs reaches €2/kg by 1st June.

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