I take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year. Hopefully the wet summer is but a distant memory.

Let’s also hope that the recent commodities market turmoil settles, that things improve in time for next harvest, and that we get some pleasant summer weather to make it once again an enjoyable time of year.

The optimism we all experienced after last harvest was short-lived. None of us could ever have foreseen how dramatically the agricultural industry would turn round from the previous year.

Commodity prices have fallen steadily and are placing increasing pressure on farm businesses. Finance is becoming increasingly restricted as is the credit most farmers rely on to produce the seasons’ crops.

Ireland’s economy has taken a dramatic downturn in line with the current global recession, and now our pig industry is in serious turmoil.

Excessive levels of dioxins have been found in pork from herds making up a small percentage of the national herd.

A recall on all pork products ensued, which has unfortunately tarred all producers with the one brush.

The source of the problem has been traced to a food recycling plant supplying traceable product to those farms. The producers were not acting inappropriately but have become unwittingly involved.

Surely our rigorous traceability rules should have finally served their purpose and products have been recalled only from affected producers?

A sum of €180m has been allocated to compensate producers and processors and put the industry back on its feet, and a major information campaign aimed at consumers both at home and abroad is being embarked upon to restore confidence.

The pig industry relies on Irish grain for its feed. If this industry cannot recover, where does it leave the cereal grower? Hopefully the beef industry will prove more resilient.