With the pig industry in the midst of escalating feed prices, lack of credit and low pigmeat prices, one of Ireland's biggest pig farmers has begun to clear out a 2,300-sow herd on his farm.
Rory O'Brien ranks in the top five pig farmers in the country in terms of scale but he is in the process of winding down his family business at Killicane, Mitchelstown, Co Cork.
Mr O'Brien has denied suggestions that the decision to exit the pig industry was due to difficulties with off-farm investments and insists that the sow clear out was due to disease reasons and falling returns.
"The most efficient pig farmers in this country have costs of production of 165-170c/kg but are only paid 135-136c/kg," he said. "You couldn't sustain those level of losses. We took a look at it and decided there was no point in continuing."
Pressure on O'Brien's business has been building for several months, coinciding with rising feed costs.
However, he insisted that processors and retailers, not just feed costs, are also to blame for the current pig industry crisis. "There is no commitment to Irish pigmeat," he said.
"The factories, secondary processors and shopkeepers have zero respect for Irish farmers.
"The farmer's share is down to 17pc of the shelf price -- something has gone wrong somewhere."
The Cork farmer warned that unless prices to farmers rise, there will be no Irish pig industry "within 12 months".
"It's a race to the end and farmers are the victims," he said.
The pig crisis reached fever pitch in recent days and Mr O'Brien claimed that some farmers were struggling to feed their pigs because they had no money.
"At least we saw it in time and took the decision to get out. There was no point whatsoever in continuing to generate losses on that scale. It would have been downright bad business," he said.
Mr O'Brien plans to continue to operate two smaller pig units at Kilworth, Co Cork, and Toomevara, Co Tipperary, and remain in partnership in a third unit in Clonmel, Co Tipperary.
He has also vowed to restock his home farm within two years if the trade improves.