Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has called on the Minister for Agriculture to deliver funds from the €1.05 billion Brexit Adjustment Reserve to the pig sector in response to the multiple crises it is facing.
Deputy Carthy was speaking during a Dáil Topical Issues debate on the crisis in the pig sector this week with the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue.
Teachta Carthy said:
“The pig sector in Ireland is a vital component of our rural economy, albeit one that is under-recognised.
“As the third largest agri-food sector, exports alone of pig meat were worth over €893 million in 2020, while it supports almost 10,000 jobs directly and indirectly.
“It has been hit hard by a perfect storm of crises, any one of which would be a calamity. Together, they represent an existential threat, unless government support is forthcoming.
“Brexit has seen exports to the sector’s most important market reduce by 14%, while transport costs have mitigated against prospects of alternative markets offsetting this.
“Costs of feed such as barley and wheat have increased by 50%, so combined with gas and electricity price hikes, pig farmers have seen input costs soar.
“All the while factory prices are falling, and those same processing plants are facing capacity issues due to staff shortages.
“This did not happen overnight.
“I have been raising many of these concerns since summer of last year, as has my colleague Declan McAleer in the Stormont Assembly. The Department established the Pig Round-table early last year.
“Clearly, there has been plenty of talking about the crisis the sector is facing – what is now required is action.
“We cannot simply wait for transport costs to decrease.
“We cannot wait until the new deadline for veterinary alignment with Britain.
“We need action on the staffing crisis in the processors.
“We need to see increased funding to the SBCI ring-fenced for the pig sector with relaxed conditions.
“We need the suspension of levies imposed on pig farmers for the duration of this crisis.
“Most importantly, the impact of Brexit is incredibly apparent – the government must deliver direct supports via Brexit Adjustment Reserve.
“If the Brexit Adjustment Reserve cannot be utilised for this sector, at this time, then it is difficult to see how any farmer will ever benefit from it.”