December 9, 2003
Falling Pig Prices Coupled With Rising Feed Prices Hit North Ireland's Pig Producers
North Ireland's Ulster pig producers were left "shocked and bewildered'' by last week's drop in pig prices.
Prices for pigs unexpectedly fell by 4p/kg on Monday and this, coupled with an increase in feed prices, has plunged producers into a lossmaking situation.
Nial Jordan, chairman of the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) Pig Committee, pointed out that pig farmers had been anticipating a strong market in the run-up to Christmas "and the price drop has once again left farmers questioning their future in the sector.''
Mr Jordan said: "This is the first time in living memory that prices have dropped in the Christmas period.
"It is a major setback for pig producers who are also having to contend with feed prices, which have already risen this season.
"This week's price fall and increase in feed prices means the value of pigs has fallen per animal since Monday.
"This couldn't have happened at a worse time for producers and, once again, the retail sector have not delivered on their claims that they are genuinely committed to supporting local produce,'' he said.
UFU president, John Gilliland, said the Union would be urging the retail sector to address the problems in the pig sector and help to deliver a more sustainable pricing structure.
He criticised the current system, which, he said, had plunged pig producers into a loss-making situation once again.
Meanwhile, pig producers in Scotland have been urged to maintain close links with their English counterparts.
"The industry faces challenges that we will find all the harder to overcome unless we collaborate more closely,'' National Pig Association chairman, Stewart Houston, said: "I understand why Scottish producers would want to capitalise on the Scottish brand but I hope they will continue to work with the rest of the country on all other pig industry issues."
Stewart Houston is particularly keen that Scottish producers and their representatives will join with their English, Welsh and Northern Ireland counterparts in a 10-year health and welfare plan. "The aim is improve national productivity by driving out disease and improving welfare,'' he said.
"Frankly if we don't work together on this, I have difficulty seeing how the industry can survive and prosper.
"The Scots have a head start on the rest of us with their own health initiative. I appeal to Scottish producers to be generous spirited - to join with us for the greater good and to bring their experience to bear."
Stewart Houston said he understood why Scottish producers - who have around 40,000 sows - might sometimes feel estranged from the rest of the industry.
"I was told recently by one representative that some Scottish producers feared being 'bounced' into initiatives by their more numerous colleagues across the border.
"If this is a fear then it must be addressed. English producers need the Scots and vice versa. We have a Scottish representative on BPEX and I would be absolutely delighted if the Scots would agree to become part of the NPA."
He appealed to any Scottish producer who had concerns, or ideas, about both countries working, together to contact him.