Ireland imported the equivalent meat tonnage of around 600,000 pigs in the first five months of 2012.
Figures from the Central Statistics Office show that 33,137 tonnes, worth over €190m, were imported from January to May.
This is equivalent to about one-third of Ireland's pig production which stood at 99,272 tonnes during the same time period.
This level of importation is taking place even though Ireland's pig prices are standing at just 93% of the EU average and half of what is produced is exported.
The high level of imports worry Irish farmers who have invested heavily to produce pigmeat of top quality.
This is one of the main reasons why a DNA scheme which has the capacity to identify Irish meat in retailers and catering establishments has been set up.
"The IFA and pig producers have invested heavily in a new DNA scheme that will reveal mislabelling," said IFA pigs committee chairman Tim Cullinan.
The average price of pigmeat at retail level is over €6/kg and the farmer gets just €1.65/kg.
"This is not sustainable. If we do not get to a new price level, we won't have a pig industry," said Cullinan.
He explained that the price of pigmeat has fallen behind competing products such as beef and lamb.
Retailers need to stop misleading consumers by one week charging €9 for pigmeat products and, next week, offering three for the price of two at a giveaway price that farmers cannot afford to fund.
Cullinan called on the Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton and the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to put a retailer Statutory Code of Practice in place immediately.
"If retailers continue to sell pigmeat as a loss leader, they will finish the industry. A number of pig producers are now strongly considering getting out," he said.
Over the last five years, the cost of pig feed has gone up by 60%. "There is a protein crisis at the moment.
The option to use meat and bone meal for pig production must be explored.
Ireland produces around 70,000t of it each year. An added cost for the beef industry could be turned around to save money for pig producers," said Cullinan.
Not only are grain yields in the upcoming harvest to be lower than expected, but the quality is now also a worry. If mycotoxins are present in grain, it has a serious effect on sow fertility and poorer quality grain will reduce liveweight gains.
In the midst of spiralling costs and major losses, pig producers must be also invest heavily to be compliant with new sow welfare obligations by 1 January 2013.
This means producers must convert their sow sheds to lose housing at an estimated cost of €40m.
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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