LEADING pig farmer Trevor Shields has told Farming Life that processors are not passing on the improvements they are getting in their market returns back to primary producers quickly enough.
“I have been informed that butchers in Belfast are now paying the equivalent of 20 pence per kilo more for pork loins than would have been the case six weeks ago,” he added.
“During the same period, farmers received price increases of around three pence per kilo for finished pigs. The reality is that every pig producer in Northern Ireland needs an extra 20 pence per kilo now, just to break even.
“And what makes the situation even more frustrating is the fact that the retail market for pigmeat is strong enough to justify this required level of return for farmers.”
Trevor continued: “My commercial pig business has been a loss making operation for the past four months and for those farmers buying grain on the spot market, we could be talking six months and more.
“Every business must make a profit. And, we are fast getting to a stage when a number of pig farmers will pull up stumps and leave the industry, simply because the figures do not add up, unless farmgate returns start to improve immediately.
“Producer prices across the rest of the UK and Europe have risen significantly over recent weeks. This is particularly so in countries such as France. However, this trend has yet to be realised here in Northern Ireland.
“Local processors have been hinting that pig prices in this part of the world will start to strengthen in a few weeks time. The reality is that pig farmers in Northern Ireland can’t wait that long. Debt levels on local farms are rising to crisis levels.”
Trevor went on to confirm that the feed price rises of recent months have created an emergency situation which pig farmers cannot cope with.
“Since the start of the year cost of the cereal grains that I use to feed my pigs have risen by over 36%. The situation with soya, which makes up 20% of my feed, has risen by over 90%,” he further explained.
“These price rises now mean that pig farmers are losing £15-£20 per pig sold. In local terms this equates to a loss of over £500,000 per week or £26 million per annum.”
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