Pig farmers 'on the road to bankruptcy' as they protest

'We’re pressing that button to get engagement with the retailer and their primary processor'
Pig farmers 'on the road to bankruptcy' as they protest

Pig Farmers protesting at Hilton Foods in Drogheda. Picture: IFA

Pig farmers this week continued their protests at secondary processors, as they further intensify their campaign to ensure the price paid for pigs reaches €2/kg by June 1.

Roy Gallie, chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association pig committee said that there had been around 30 farmers at a protest being held at Hilton Foods in Drogheda, Co Louth, on Wednesday.

This comes just over a week after the IFA held protests at four secondary processors, Oliver Carty & Family in Athlone, Co Roscommon; Pilgrim’s site in Shillelagh, Co Wicklow; Oakpark Foods in Cahir, Co Tipperary; and Connolly Meats in Co Monaghan.

Mr Gallie told the Irish Examiner that farmers, who began the protest at 6am, would remain at the site in Drogheda for “as long as it takes”. He said IFA members had attended a meeting with management at Hilton Foods, but as of Wednesday afternoon, had been awaiting further engagement from the retailer it supplies to.

“We’re pressing that button to get engagement with the retailer and their primary processor,” Mr Gallie said.

“No lorry has left this premises today and no lorry is getting in.

“We’re at a stage where we said this is one of the buttons we can press – which is [stopping] the movement of product from their premise to the supermarkets.”

Mr Gallie told the Irish Examiner that pig farmers “are on the road to bankruptcy”.

“We haven’t got enough money to feed the pigs,” he said.

“Until such time as the retailers recognise that the primary producer won’t be there and we’re then into a food security situation, that’s no good for us, it’s no good for them, it’s no good for the consumer, but the longer this goes on, the more likely that is to happen.”

Irish pig farmers are hitting a “breaking point”, and as they lose €55 per pig sold, it is “now or never” for prices to increase for producers, according to the IFA.

This follows the announcement that Tesco is to pay more to pig farmers in the UK.

The National Pig Association said it welcomes that Tesco is “putting more money into the pork supply chain” to help struggling pig producers.

NPA chairman Rob Mutimer recently wrote to the Tesco chief executive Ken Murphy asking the retailer to do more to support the pig industry, with most of the big UK retailers “having already taken steps to get more money to producers”.

The NPA said in a statement that Tesco has now announced an “accelerated and enhanced payment plan that will see its suppliers increase payments to farmers by £6.6m until August”.

“The retailer said this will bring its support for farmers to a total of £10m since the start of March 2022 and pledged to work with its suppliers to ensure the investment gets passed to farmers as quickly as possible,” the NPA said.

Mr Mutimer said in a statemnt: “We are very pleased that Tesco has responded following our letter to chief executive Ken Murphy, with some much-needed extra financial support for the pig industry.

“This is a very welcome boost for beleaguered pig farmers, who are currently facing unprecedented costs of production and need a tangible increase in the price they are being paid in order to stay in business.

“We look forward to seeing the pig price rising very soon as a result of this action and hopefully we can begin to stem the flow of producers exiting the industry.”

Tesco fresh commercial director, Dominic Morrey added: “We fully recognise the seriousness of the situation UK pig farmers are facing and have been working closely with our suppliers to understand what more we can do to support the sector.

“On top of the increased volume of British pork we’re now offering our customers, we will be increasing payments to British pig farmers by £10m through to August this year.

“We know there is more to do, and we will be working with suppliers, farmers and the wider industry to drive more transparency and sustainability across our supply chains and support the future of the British pig industry.”

Jim Brisby, chief commercial officer for Tesco pork supplier, Cranswick, also commented: “We’ve been working with Tesco to find a more sustainable way of paying our farmers for pigs, and we are pleased with the progress we have made to increase the availability of British pork to Tesco shoppers, and are continuing to work with the team to significantly increase these volumes even further over the next few months.

“The announcement regarding the increased prices paid to British farmers will also help to support those farmers supplying Tesco.”

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