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“We are staring into the abyss”: Pig farmers protest outside Dáil

Irish pig farmers are calling for support for their struggling industry, which they say is “staring into the abyss.”

Pig farmers have been hit hard by rising costs of animal feed, as well as fuel due to the ongoing energy crisis.

Pigs are the third most common kind of livestock farmed in Ireland, and the sector employs around 8,000 people.

Protesting outside the Agriculture House on Kildare Street, IFA pig committee chair Roy Gallie described the challenges facing the sector.

“We are caught in a devastating price/cost squeeze,” he said.

“Some farmers have already culled breeding sows and more are suspending production. They cannot produce with losses of over €50 per pig, and rising.”

According to figures from Teagasc, average pig farmers are losing as much as €56,000 per month, and are expected to lose as much as €71,000 in April. They estimate that as many as 5% of pig farmers have been forced to exit the industry due to unsustainable losses, with another 20-30% at risk of going the same way.

Gallie said that if the government does not act, the entire sector will be “gone.”

“If the Government wants a pig sector, it must act now,” he said.

“We are at the point where farmers are exiting. If more go, then the upstream and downstream businesses become unviable and then the sector will be gone. It is that serious.”

The IFA claimed that pig products amount to nearly €1bn in exports for Ireland (€930 million to be precise), but is set for a €160m loss in 2022.

The war in Ukraine has seriously harmed the agriculture industry across Europe.

Over 20% of the world’s maize comes from Russia and Ukraine, a large amount of which is used to feed farm animals. According to the Irish Grain and Feed Association, the war has created an 8 million tonne maize shortage in Europe, driving up costs dramatically.

Recently Independent Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath spoke of the issues facing the industry.

“They [pig farmers] are missing 40% of their workforce because they went back home during the pandemic. They’re only killing at 60%. So there’s going to be an animal welfare crisis as well.

“It’s imminent. And our boys [the government] are in some kind of sleepy dream, as if they’re in a coma or something. I don’t know what’s going on.”

While Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue has offered the industry €7 million (around €20,000 per farmer), the Irish Farmers Association is saying that a rescue package of €100 million will be necessary to save their sector.

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