Pigmeat: Market diversification highlighted in confronting price volatility

Price volatility has been a significant challenge for the pigmeat sector, according to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

Developments over the last few years have emphasised the cyclical nature of prices in the sector, he added, noting that current prices stand at €139.54/100kg – which is 15% below prices received at the same time in 2017 (an exceptional year for pig prices).

However, this remains above the price at the same stage in 2016, he said.

Minister Creed was responding to a question put to him by Sinn Fein’s spokesperson for agriculture, deputy Martin Kenny, in the Dail yesterday (Wednesday, May 9).

Deputy Kenny asked if the minister’s attention had been drawn to the hardship endured among pig farmers with small to medium-sized piggeries due to low prices; and the measures he plans to introduce to assist them through this crisis.

The minister said: “My department and I have made a substantial effort to encourage market diversification.

“The importance of this is illustrated by the significant expansion in Ireland’s pigmeat exports to east Asia and to China in particular,” he noted.

The ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit lends an even greater importance to expansion of access to international markets.

“In June of 2017 I visited Mexico, the fourth largest importer of chilled and frozen pork in the world.”

Minister Creed added that he has made access to the Mexican market a top priority – as Mexican demand continues to grow.

“I also travelled to Japan and the Republic of Korea last autumn to promote the development of further opportunities for Irish producers in these markets – as I want to continue the diversification of markets to which Ireland has access.

“Exports to Japan more than doubled to €22 million in 2017, putting it in second place in international markets.”

Continuing, the minister said: “We can also expect that the new free trade agreement with Japan (JEEPA) will further enhance trade opportunities. Growth in the Philippines was also strong, up 54%, making it the third-largest international market for Irish pigmeat exports.

“China is now the largest third country market with exports of €102 million last year.

I will lead a trade mission to China this month visiting Beijing and Shanghai. This visit will include events, in association with Bord Bia, to promote Irish pork to further develop export opportunities.

“With Irish production up 1.2% in 2017 and export value increasing by 8% to €790 million, I will continue to work closely with the sector and – by focusing on insight-led growth strategies – take advantage of opportunities for Irish pigmeat exporters on international markets,” the minister concluded.