Brendan Smith: Urgent need for further financial support for pigmeat sector

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith has again appealed to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine for further financial support for the struggling pigmeat sector.

Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “In response to my Parliamentary Questions in Dáil Éireann, Minister McConalogue confirmed that he is reviewing a recent proposal submitted to his Department by stakeholders in the pigmeat sector. 

“Over recent months increased input costs and poor market returns have caused particular difficulties for this sector which is an important part of our overall food industry and provides valuable employment,” stated Brendan Smith.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in response to Deputy Smith’s question, stated: “Our pig farmers have always been remarkably resilient but I am acutely aware of the unprecedented challenges that Irish pig farmers are facing at present.  

“The continued development of the pigmeat sector is a priority for me given the pivotal role the industry plays in the national economic context. It is the third largest agri-food sector, and supports approximately 8,000 rural jobs.

“Last month, I announced the Pig Exceptional Payment Scheme (PEPS), with a fund of up to €7 million, for commercial pig farmers. This is an urgent, short-term response to assist producers that would be viable but for the extreme current circumstances, and allow space for a more medium-term adjustment to market signals.

“This scheme is a once-off, exchequer funded scheme open to commercial pig undertakings which had produced more than 200 pigs in the period 1st January 2021 to 31st December 2021 inclusive. This includes pigs sent to slaughter, exported or sold commercially from a breeding herd.

“The scheme was notified to the European Commission under the agriculture de minimis rules, which provide for a maximum payment per undertaking of €20,000.

“Applications for the PEPS closed on 20th March 2022. The first tranche of payments was made last week, with the remaining applications due for processing as soon as possible. All information on the scheme can be found on my Department’s website.

“This scheme is part of a wider package of measures to support the pigmeat sector, including intensified efforts by Bord Bia to promote quality assured Irish pigmeat in the domestic and export markets with dedicated media advertising campaigns under way nationally, as well as EU-funded pigmeat promotion programmes running in key export markets.

“Teagasc has also intensified its dedicated, ongoing advisory supports being provided to pig farmers and is actively engaging with pig farmers to explore the  options potentially available to them.

“There is also support for access to finance through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI), particularly the Brexit Impact Loan Scheme and the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme. Both of these SBCI finance products, which are part-financed by my Department, can be used for working capital and include features which will assist the current financial needs of pig farmers.

“Furthermore, the Department continues to engage at EU level to ensure a joined-up EU approach to the challenges arising from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, including through the European Food Security Crisis preparedness response Mechanism (EFSCM).

“Last week the Commission announced the adoption of exceptional support measures across the agriculture sector, along with a communication on Food Security. In addition, the Commission in view of the particularly difficult situation in the pig meat sector has opened a new private storage aid scheme to assist in stabilising the sector.

“The Department is currently examining the detailed requirements and conditionality attached to the exceptional aid allocation to Ireland of €15.8 million in EU funding. We continue to engage with the pig sector and we are considering potential options to support it.

“Along with Minister of State Martin Heydon, I met with the IFA on Tuesday night following its rally. Officials from the Department have agreed to meet with the IFA on its proposal and I will also engage with the IFA in the coming days,” stated Minister McConalogue.