Viewpoint: Pig producers sliced and diced by market forces
Published 01/03/2016 | 02:30
How serious is the situation in the pig industry?
Last week the Kerry ham processing plant at Shillelagh in Wicklow became the proxy target for an IFA picket. The plant was singled out by frustrated producers on the back of a Bord Bia report for the last quarter of 2015 which showed that only 22pc of Galtee rashers have the Quality Assured logo, signifying Irish origin.
Kerry point out that they are forced to import meat to cope with varying requirements such as promotions, and that the absence of a Bord Bia Quality mark does not necessarily mean that the meat is imported.
But with just 50 people present at the protest, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is just another chapter in the well-known pig price cycle?
This has traditionally provided farmers with 18 months of good prices, followed by two years of mediocre returns, followed by 18 months of a loss-making period.
But talking to pig farmers young and old over recent days, it appears that the the usual 18-month uplift was reduced to a mere three-month lift in late 2014.
While a mass outbreak of disease in the US herd in recent years masked the impact of the closure of the Russian market, the rebound in US production has exposed Irish producers to the full impact of the supply imbalance that now exists in Europe.
Production may only be 3pc too high in the EU, but this small over-supply has left farmers in a situation where they are working harder and longer hours just to stay in business. Some said they just couldn't afford to take the day off to join the protest.