The number of sows and gilts fell by 8% in Northern Ireland in the last year in the latest figures published by the NI Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD).
The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says these results highlight the tremendous problems faced by pig and beef sectors in the province.
President of the Union, Kenneth Sharkey, said the survey was a good sign of trends in the farming industry. Since the decoupling of CAP support from production, farmers had much more flexibility in their business decisions, he commented. “This survey indicates that pig producers and cattle farmers have downsized their herds or ceased production during 2007.”
“This has been our warning to processors and retailers for a long time. If producers aren’t paid sustainable prices they will not stay in the industry and consumers will be deprived of high quality local produce,” he added.
In January, this year, 19% fewer prime cattle were slaughtered in the province than in January 2007. Many pig producers are also seriously considering de-stocking because of unsustainable prices.
Sharkey has called on the retail sector to respond to the crisis situation and to “look seriously at how to secure sustainable supplies of local produce which their customers are demanding”.
Northern Ireland has witnessed pig crises over the years with a particularly bad one at the end of the 1990s. Pig producers feel that have been put at a disadvantage compared to their European counterparts by unilaterally imposed UK legislation, such as the stall and tether ban and BSE related controls.