Veterinary dispute puts Irish pig industry in jeopardy

“You’d wonder if there is a future for pigmeat in this country at all.”

These were the sentiments expressed by Co. Cavan pig farmer Frank Brady this morning (Thursday, January 10) as he spoke to AgriLand about the impact of the ongoing work-to-rule by vets in meat factories.

Brady, says too, that this latest issue has simply added further difficulties to an industry already groaning under the weight of pressure.

“It’s very serious with the pigs at the moment; pigs are being held over and can’t be killed. Then you also have pigs that were booked in being cancelled,” he added.

Those pigs have to be fed and there are also implications for staff employed at the factories too.

The average pig farmer in Ireland kills about 20,000 animals a year and Brady, who is the chairman of Monaghan Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), points to the difficulties now arising on farms because the animals can’t be moved.

“Farmers need to sell the pigs in order to make room for new stock; they also need to be killed so that feed can be bought as well,” he continued, before pointing out the industry was now at an “all-time low”.

“This dispute with the vets has only added to the problems to be honest with you.  At the moment, there is an oversupply of pigmeat – there is too much being produced and therefore the price is low.

“Producing less meat would be more efficient,” he said.

The work-to-rule centres on a dispute over the terms of employment of Temporary Veterinary Inspectors (TVIs) at a number of meat plants around the country.

There are serious concerns over a shortage in TVI manpower to carry out inspection duties on factory floors.

Also Read: Animals turned away from factories as veterinary dispute continues

This follows a moratorium of recruitment introduced by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in 2011 – since then, no new TVIs have been recruited.

Although mediation between the department and Veterinary Ireland – the representative body for vets in Ireland – had been ongoing for several months, talks broke down in recent weeks when a proposed agreement on the dispute fell through.

The situation has caused production lines to operate at half capacity, leading to significant disruption and delays.

Production

Brady is also of the opinion that too much food is being produced in general.

“It’s the supermarkets that are winning financially as a result – not the producer.

“Supermarkets have far too much power and pigs are not making a profit, so, not being able to kill the animals is just causing more problems for everyone.

“In order for me to deal with pigs that I can’t send to the factories now I have to use all the space available to me within the unit.

The pigs are getting bigger and bigger and that means all of this is a complete loss-making exercise anyway.

“Some farmers in the industry are so disillusioned with the whole thing; going forward you’d wonder if there is a future for pigmeat in this country at all.

“There are about 270 pig farmers in Ireland and I can see that going down to about 50. The big are getting bigger and the small is getting out. What farmers are getting for pigs now is the same as we were getting 25 years ago,” he concluded.

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