Loan scheme proposed as solution to hog sector ‘crisis’

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is offering a government loan scheme as a means of addressing the challenges currently faced by the pig sector.

The sector, which accounts for 6.3% of Irish agribusiness production, has been hit by a financial crisis due to rising feed and energy costs coupled with low prices paid to producers.

IFA President Tim Cullinan said Agriland“The government must once again review the situation. We are in the process of submitting another proposal to the government and, obviously, the financing would be much more substantial than 7 million euros.

Last month, Agriculture, Food and Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue confirmed a €7 million support package for pig farmers.

Under the scheme, the €7 million would be distributed as a lump sum payment of up to €20,000 for each commercial pig farmer sending more than 200 animals for slaughter per year.

Loan scheme and other proposals

Cullinan continued, “Pig farmers understand that these are state resources right now. In this proposal, we are willing to consider a type of loan that the government would facilitate to farmers.

“In the long term, a methodology would be put in place for farmers to repay this loan.

“Basically what we’re looking for now is a realistic lump sum paid to individual farmers to ensure they can buy feed and continue their business, and come up with a long-term strategy that [the] loan could be repaid to the government,” he added.

In the interview with Agriland for the farmland series of videos, Cullinan also said that a loan program alone is not the only solution to the challenges faced by hog farmers.

He said other stakeholders in the food chain must be held accountable for selling agricultural products at a loss.

“We’ve been running campaigns in the retail area over the past few months and we’ve highlighted where we stand.

“Obviously we cannot continue to produce pigmeat at the price we are currently getting. The price of all foods, but in this case we are talking about pork, must increase at the retail level.

“This price increase must be passed along the chain, to the processor who, in turn, will increase the price paid to the farmer.”

The president of the agricultural association said that at this stage, pig farmers need to see 75 c/kg return from retailers to processors in order to ensure any type of margin for farmers.

New markets for pork

Cullinan said Bord Bia must also continue to work to find new markets for pork.

“California is a region where there is a demand for high quality pork. We have standards here in Ireland so that’s a market we need to look at,” he said.

“Mexico was a market that was opened by the Minister [for agriculture] it’s been over a year now and I accept that there were issues around Covid and it was very difficult to get out there.

“But due to the restrictions around Covid-19 being lifted, we need to enter international markets and also find more markets for pork.”

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