Kilkeel pig breeder Trevor Shields picked up the Pig Inter Breed Championship with a Glenmarshal Large White boar on Day 2 of Balmoral Show. And while no stranger to success in the show ring, it was matters of a Chinese nature that were occupying his mind in equal measure.

Trevor has developed one of the most successful pig genetics businesses in the UK and he is extremely keen to export boar semen to the world’s largest pig market from his Co. Down centre of breeding excellence.

“I was very encouraged to hear Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill confirm that significant progress has been made in securing access to the Chinese market for Northern Ireland agri food businesses,” he told the News Letter.

“We have had a deputation of Chinese veterinarians and government officials inspect our facility. So, hopefully, this will help open the door in terms of new business opportunities in Asia.”

Back in 2012 a trade deal was struck between China and the UK, which – according to Trevor Shields – has the potential to lift local farmgate pig prices significantly. “The market for pork in China is immense. What’s more, the Chinese eat every bit of the pig including offals, intestines and all the other parts of what’s called the fifth quarter. All of this material is presently deemed to be waste within the EU and must be disposed off at a significant cost to local processors, one which is taken off the price paid to producers,” he explained.

“However, the trade deal with China has the potential to put a significant value on every part of every pig slaughtered and processed here in Northern Ireland.

“There are no obstacles at all which will prevent our processors from putting pork products on to the Chinese market,” he explained.

The past twelve months have marked a return to profitability for most pig producers in Northern Ireland. The early summer of 2013 saw the production downturn that has been a feature of pig farming throughout most of Europe since the beginning of the year, at long last, converted into stronger market returns. But farmers are not out of the woods yet. Months of losses have now to be recouped against a backdrop of higher input prices and the spectre of a return to higher levels of production in many parts of mainland Europe, where this year’s bountiful grain harvests will encourage many producers to re-stock.

Many economists are predicting that the days of cheap food are over. And there is no sector of agriculture in Northern Ireland that will welcome these sentiments with open arms more than our embattled pig producers, who have had to endure the ups and downs of the international commodity markets for two generations without one penny of assistance from Europe.