17 May 2002

Irish pigs steady despite fire

By Philip Clarke

Europe editor

PIG prices have held steady in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland this week, despite the loss of processing capacity after a serious fire at one of the islands largest abattoirs.

The Glanbia plant at Roosky, Co Roscommon was badly damaged in the middle of last week, leading to a production shutdown for several weeks to come.

Roosky was handling about 10,000 pigs a week, the largest of Glanbias three plants in the Republic, representing about 16% of the national kill.

But a contingency plan has been rolled out with 7000 of those pigs now going to the companys other sites at Edenderry, Co Offaly and Roscrea, Co Tipperary. The other 3000 animals are being slaughtered on contract.

"Prices have not changed at all as a result of this, though we are in discussions on an individual basis over haulage," said Glanbia spokesman, Michael Patten.

He put the total cost of the fire, believed to have been started by an electrical fault, at more than k38m (Ir£30m). "The chill rooms were totally destroyed, but the slaughter lines survived and killing is expected to resume in six weeks time, once temporary chilling has been secured."

The fire is the second serious incident in recent years on the island. The Lovell and Christmas plant at Balleymoney in Northern Ireland was destroyed by fire in June 1998, with severe market implications in the border regions.

"It is very disappointing to see pig processing capacity once again being lost because of a major fire," said Ulster Farmers Union pig chairman, Nial Jordan. "But this situation is not as serious as the fire we experienced in Balleymoney and we do not expect the same impact on the market."

A spokeswoman for Bord Bia said Irish pigs were fetching from k1.29/kg (80p) to k1.33/kg (82p) this week, the same as over the past four weeks. That compares with k1.38/kg (86p) in Northern Ireland and k1.61/kg (99p) in GB. &#42