Brendan Smith presses Government to act immediately to support crisis-hit pigmeat sector

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan Brendan Smith, in a recent Dáil debate, has reiterated his plea for urgent support to help the crisis-hit pigmeat sector and for the Government to make it a matter of priority.

Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “This sector, which is haemorrhaging significant losses, needs an immediate package of financial measures. There has been a major rationalisation of the sector over the years. We do not want to see a further reduction in producer numbers, which would be damaging to our overall agrifood industry. This sector is very efficient and it is a modern industry. It does not receive any support through the Common Agricultural Policy.

The Cavan and Monaghan TD continued: “I fear that a major de-stocking could create animal welfare issues. It would also be very damaging to the image of our agrifood sector which has been painstakingly built up over many years with major EU and Government support and major investment directly by farmers and others in the sector. I appeal again to the Government to introduce, without delay, an immediate package of measures to ensure that the sector is supported through these very difficult times and that the crisis hitting it for some time is tackled head on.”

Deputy Brendan Smith has already raised the worrying situation with the sector with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in January and he also raised it directly with An Taoiseach in the Dáil.

The Cavan and Monaghan TD shed further light on the escalating nature of the crisis, stating: “Sadly, in recent times, 7% of pig farmers have exited this sector. Some 10,135 sows are gone from production, which equates to a loss of €66 million in exports on an annual basis.

“Teagasc has estimated that for every 1,000 sows de-stocked, there is a total loss of employment of 60 people, a loss of payroll of €2.42 million and €6.5 million in export losses. These are substantial losses in any rural community and already we have witnessed many multiples of those losses in employment and generation of revenue.”

He added: “A number of factors have contributed to this crisis. During the early days of the Covid pandemic, there were staff shortages, which led to a backlog in processing and substantial market disruption, which lowered returns for pigmeat. Brexit impacted very severely on the value and volume of pigmeat exports to Britain, which is by far our most valued and valuable market. Since the start of 2021, the value and volume of those exports fell by 50%, obviously causing a severe adverse effect on the sector. African swine fever had a negative impact on the pig market. Coupled with reduced farm gate prices, there has been a massive increase in feed prices. The war inflicted on Ukraine by the brutal Putin regime has also impacted very severely on supply of feedstuff, alike to other disruptions in global trade in recent times.”

Deputy Smith concluded: “This sector is worth €1 billion to the economy on an annual basis and is the third largest sector within agriculture. It also supports approximately 8,000 people in employment and makes a very substantial contribution to the rural and national economy. Teagasc estimates that approximately 30% of farm pig units are at risk of closure. This is very concerning and measures must be implemented by Government, with immediate effect, to deal effectively with this crisis.”


Note to Editor

Please see attached transcript of Dáil debate