Irish pig producers are getting increasingly worried about the state of the sector, as prices remain well below the cost of production.

The chair of the Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) Pigs Committee, Thomas Hogan, told AgriLand that he has fielded an increasing number of calls in recent weeks from worried producers.

Hogan indicated that the current pig price averages about 138c/kg, while the cost of production is estimated to be 150c/kg. However, the Limerick farmer fears that the sector could be plunged into a deeper crisis if feed prices increase in the coming weeks.

He indicated that feed prices could increase by €20/t next month; this would mean that the cost of production would also jump by 8c/kg.

If this comes to pass, pig producers would be dealing with a shortfall of approximately 20c/kg.

Speaking to AgriLand, Hogan said: “There is a shortage of grain out there at the moment. If feed prices increase, there is normally a lag of three or four months before pig prices increase.

Some pig farmers are already suffering with cash flow difficulties and banks have been alerted to the situation facing producers.

The Limerick farmer is hopeful that the recent increase announced for the German pig price due to tightening supplies could lead to a boost in Irish prices.

African swine fever

Meanwhile, Hogan outlined that there has been an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in China in recent days – with about 8,000 pigs reported to have been culled.

The chair of the IFA’s Pigs Committee believes that authorities will be keen to “keep a lid on how widespread the disease is” and he wouldn’t be surprised if the outbreak turns into a bigger issue.

Whether or not the outbreak will have an impact on European pig prices will depend on how widespread the disease is, he added.

Stakeholder meeting

Furthermore, Hogan stated that pig producers are hoping to meet with other stakeholders in the sector – namely processors and retailers – sometime next month to highlight the pressures producers are facing.

The way imported products are labelled here with “Irish-sounding names” and “an Irish flag”, while the actual country of origin is only identifiable in “small writing on the back of the product” are key concerns that the pig farmer wishes to raise at the meeting.

He argued that consumers are being “hoodwinked” by “nearly identical” packaging.

Concluding, Hogan encouraged consumers to always look for the Bord Bia quality assured mark when buying pork products.