‘We can’t continue with the present pricing structure for pigs’
There is no money in pigs, with most producers unlikely to break even this year, according to lifelong pork and bacon man Frank Brady.
“This is the worst year for 20 years, and unless there is an improvement in the markets soon I don’t know what the pig producers will do,” says the Galway-born man who lives in Monaghan, but runs a piggery just across the county line in Cootehill, Co Cavan.
“Maybe the Chinese market, which will be down over 10pc next year, can help the sector.”
But even if there is a market boost for Irish bacon, hams and porks in 2019, Frank says there must be a radical restructuring of what farmers get for what they produce across all sectors if farming is to become profitable again.
“We can’t continue with the present pricing structure where the supermarkets get 50pc of the end price, the processors 30pc and the farmers only 20pc for all their work,” he says.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s pork, beef or milk, the same 50-30-20 money ratios apply, and these ratios must be rebalanced in favour of the farmer.”
A proper price ratio, in his view, would see the farmer getting over 35pc of the value of his produce, with the processors getting 20pc and the supermarkets the rest.
And Frank is also demanding an end to the supermarket gimmick of ‘buy one get one free’, a marketing device that he says is effectively subsidised by the farmer.
‘The 50-30-20 divvy-up has to end. Farmers have to get a proper and fair price for their produce,” he emphasises.
Frank (61) rears over 600 sows, which are housed on a three acre plant, and he supplies Rossderra. Four people are employed full time at the piggery.
Frank has been running the enterprise on his 5-acre holding since 1996.
Married to Addie, a retired bank manager, the couple have four children: Christopher (26), who has an ag science degree from DkIT; Ciara (24), a trainee accountant with Grant Thornton and also holds an ag science degree from UCD; Marcus (21), who is studying biomedical engineering at DCU; and Claudia (18), who is studying commerce.
Another of Frank’s gripes is that so much of the food in the retail chains comes from places like Argentina, where he says vast tracts of unspoiled land are being cleared to produce the food.
“We are talking all the time about climate change and carbon footprint, but we are encouraging this with these imports,” he says.
“We should be marketing our own produce, whether it’s beef, sheep or pork, emphasising the low carbon footprint of these foods.”
Frank also takes issue with the mountain of rules and regulations farmers from all enterprises must endure.
“The Department takes a holier-than-thou attitude to everything to a much greater extent than their counterparts in other EU countries,” he claims.
The depressed stage of his sector now and Frank’s off-farm commitments make holidays an afterthought.
He is chairman of the Monaghan IFA and is heavily involved with the GAA: he trained the Monaghan minor football team who won the Ulster championship for the first time in 68 years in 2013.