Daera unveils further support for NI pig farmers worth £1.6m

Pig producers in Northern Ireland are set to receive further financial support to help combat rising costs, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) has announced.

The department unveiled a £1.6m package on 23 November, which follows a similar £2m scheme for pig producers in the province in March this year.

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A Daera spokeman said: “The latest scheme is targeted at pig producers who have been financially impacted by the effects of increasing input costs.

“It will be implemented in accordance with a ministerial direction issued by former agriculture minister Edwin Poots before leaving office on 28 October 2022.”

Further details on the scheme, including eligibility criteria and payment mechanisms, will be announced in the coming weeks.

Much-needed support

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), which has lobbied hard for such a deal, welcomed the announcement.

UFU pork and bacon chairman Edgar Carson said the much-needed support would come as a huge relief to pig producers and the pork sector as a whole.

“Our pig farmers endured hefty increases to input costs including feed and energy, and they were struggling to absorb the extra expense,” he said.

“The market price for pigs was too slow to react. and the return they were receiving was simply not enough to keep businesses afloat.”

National Pig Association (NPA) chief executive Lizzie Wilson welcomed the support package for NI producers, but she said it was a shame that Defra could not do the same for all UK producers.

The NPA has continually pressed Defra over the past two years to support and better regulate the food supply chain.

But government officials have rejected the call and insisted that the issue is one that should be solved by the supply chain itself.

Production costs climb again

Meanwhile, the latest financial figures show that pig producers are not receiving a realistic price, with input costs outstripping returns.

Quarterly figures released by AHDB Pork this week revealed costs of production averaged £2.23/kg for the three months to 1 October.

This was slightly down on the previous quarter but monitoring shows they have since risen again, climbing to £2.37/kg in October.

That means pig farmers lost £28-£33 for each finished pig in October, the AHDB said.

Since supply chain disruption began during the Covid-19 pandemic and the situation worsened as Russia invaded Ukraine, the UK sector is believed to have lost a total of £737m.