‘The day of eating 3 or 4 meals around the kitchen table has changed’

The national treasurer of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and pig farmer in north Tipperary, Tim Cullinan, has admitted that while pig production has hit crisis point, people’s eating habits have changed and so too has eating meals around the kitchen table.

He also said that the IFA is fully committed to addressing the ‘pig crisis’.

Cullinan – who was speaking on the latest episode of AgriLand – was part of an IFA team that held a meeting to address the crisis in Moneygall earlier this week.

He says that “pig prices in this country should be at the €2/kg mark”.

He continued: “If you look at where the European price has gone in the last number of weeks – it has climbed to €1.73 today and we are at an average of €1.50 to €1.53 – there is a huge gap after arising there.

“I am basing all this on what is happening in Asia at the moment, in particular China, where there has been a huge loss of pigs on the ground due to African swine fever (ASF) disease.”

Meanwhile, Cullinan pointed to the Chinese pig production market which, he added, produces 50% of the world’s pig meat.

“There is now a massive decrease in production there; what I’m hearing on the ground at the moment is that retailers and the food service sector are paying substantially more for the product they are getting,” he continued.

“Pig farming in Ireland has become very commercial but if we don’t see a price increase now the sector will no longer be sustainable.”

‘Consumer habits’

With regard to meat and the change in consumer eating habits, Cullinan says there will always be a market for meat and dairy produce in this country.

We all need to eat meat and people will always eat meat.

He added: “I get very concerned when I see bodies that are not involved in the food service industry commenting on what people should eat – An Taisce, it is not their remit – and there are lots of Government agencies that look at people’s diet.

“In fairness you have Bord Bia there that is doing an excellent job in promoting meat.”

Cullinan also admitted that people’s eating habits have evolved over the years.

“The day of eating three or four meals a day at home around the kitchen table has changed; a lot of people are eating on the go but I still believe that people will eat lots of dairy and meat products going forward,” said Cullinan.

Presidential election

Before concluding the IFA national secretary also admitted that he has his eye on the organisation’s presidential seat.

The election for the position will take place towards the end of the year.

“I am very busy in my position in IFA at the moment; we have a serious beef livestock crisis out there and we don’t know what the news will be in relation to Brexit before this week is out,” he said.

“But yes I am very interested in looking at the presidency going forward – but that is for later in the year.”