‘Pig farmers are racing faster to stand still’

Pig farmers are racing faster to stand still, as prices continue to remain static, according to the chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA’s) Pig Committee Thomas Hogan.

As it stands, the pig price currently comes in at around 140c/kg. There are some farmers who are making deals at prices as low as 138c/kg and up to 144c/kg.

Commenting on the matter, Hogan said: “We’re about 10c/kg behind the cost of production. Last year was a reasonably good year; there is no doubt about that.

But we’re after three months of bad prices and lads are beginning to feel the pinch now.

Hogan is hopeful that prices will pick up going forward, given that EU prices have moved on in recent weeks.

20c/kg difference in the space of a year

The IFA’s Pig Committee chairman explained that pig prices were approximately 20c/kg higher this time last year. If the average carcass weight of a pig is 80kg, this equates to €16 less per animal in the space of 12 months.

In 2017, pig prices peaked in early July at about 174c/kg to 176c/kg, Hogan said.

Meanwhile, the throughput of finished pigs amounted to 65,895 head in the week ending February 24, according to Bord Bia. This was an increase of 3,940 head – or 6.5% – on the corresponding week last year.

The total kill in relation to finished pigs for the year up until the week ending February 24 stood at 516,016 head. This was a jump of 15.9% – or a rise of 70,917 head.

Irish kill capacity

Hogan outlined that record kills were achieved coming up to Christmas.

One issue facing the sector at the moment is killing capacity, or the lack thereof, he added.

Two killing days were lost due to Storm Emma and the snowfall it brought. This meant that pig factories were under increased pressure to clear the backlog of pigs that had built up, Hogan said.

The short week as a result of the upcoming bank holiday will also put pressure on factories, he said.

Hogan believes that the outcome of Brexit will have an impact on any prospects of expansion with regards to killing capacity.

Increased productivity

Significant advancements in productivity have been achieved by Irish pig farmers in recent years, according to the IFA chairman.

But producers are “racing faster to stand still“, Hogan said.

Improvements in genetics and farming practices have led to a number of increases in relation to carcass weights, the average number of litters per sow, the average number of pigs born alive and the average number of pigs reared per sow, he added.

While the size of the national sow herd has remained relatively static, the number of pigs being finished in Ireland has increased substantially – leading to increased pressure in relation to killing capacity.

Hogan is hopeful that Irish pig producers will see deserved price improvements in the near future.