A £2 million emergency support scheme is to be set up for pig farmers in the north after warnings the sector is at “breaking point” due to escalating costs.
Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots said on Friday that he will direct his permanent secretary to deliver the scheme for “those farmers who have been impacted most”.
It followed a warning from the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) on Friday that the north’s pig sector is facing an unprecedented crisis in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
UFU president Victor Chestnutt said after months of low pig prices and rising input costs, the surge in raw material costs had left local pig producers “on their knees”.
“They’ve never experienced such financial difficulty like they are right now – its gut wrenching,” he said.
“They’ve been enduring serious losses for months due to market volatility and increasing production costs, struggling to keep their head above water, and now, Russia’s ongoing attack on Ukraine has resulted in the price of raw materials going through the roof.”
The UFU president said that unless the price of pig meat increases, pig producers will go out of business.
“They simply cannot keep up with the eye-watering price increases any longer.”
Responding to those calls, Edwin Poots said: “I am very aware of the challenges pig producers have faced in recent months and I am convinced that the sector needs emergency financial support at this time.”
The Department of Agriculture said the online scheme will make payments to pig producers who incurred price penalties on pigs that were outside contract specifications from September 2021 to February 2022.
While welcoming the new scheme, Mr Chestnutt said it will not cover the losses which our farmers continue to endure.
“Since the war in Ukraine, the market price of feed has soared to levels not seen before.
“The Northern Ireland pig industry is hanging on a knife edge. A price increase is still needed from retailers to ensure the security of the industry during this extremely difficult period.”