Northern Irish pig support fund worth £2m opens for applications

Up to £2 million will be made available for farmers impacted by the effects of weakening markets and increased feed costs
Up to £2 million will be made available for farmers impacted by the effects of weakening markets and increased feed costs

A new support package worth up to £2 million for Northern Ireland’s pig farmers will soon open for applications as producers continue to see a perform storm of issues.

The Department of Agriculture's (DAERA) scheme will open next week to support the province's pig sector, which has faced significant challenges recently.

Up to £2 million will be made available for farmers impacted by the effects of weakening markets, increased feed costs and getting pigs moved off the farm for slaughter.

Payments will be made to those producers who incurred price penalties on overweight pigs that were outside contract specifications from September 2021 to February 2022 due to the backlog situation on farms.

Announcing the scheme, DAERA Minister Edwin Poots said: “I announced in March that I was convinced the sector needs emergency financial support due to factors outside the farmers control.

"[These include] international supply and demand, labour availability in the processing sector, rising feed costs and repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is a short term targeted support measure but farmers need more from their partners in the supply chain if economic viability and supply of pig meat is to be sustained.”

Mr Poots said eligible pig producers would receive a letter inviting them to apply through DAERA Online Services.

Responding to the announcement, the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) said that the NI pig sector was facing a crisis "like never before".

After months of enduring low pig prices and rising input costs, the impact locally of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine had now "pushed pig producers to breaking point".

UFU president Victor Chestnutt said: “Our pig producers are on their knees. They’ve never experienced such financial difficulty like they are right now – its gut wrenching.

"They’ve been enduring serious losses for months due to market volatility and increasing production costs, and now, Russia’s ongoing attack on Ukraine has resulted in the price of raw materials going through the roof."

Farmers in other areas of the UK, as well as Ireland, France and other EU countries, have also received direct support from government in recognition of the dire situation on pig farms.

Earlier this week, the Scottish government announced a final cash injection of £410,000 as part of its Pig Producers' Hardship Scheme.

The scheme was launched in August 2021 following the temporary closure of the abattoir at Brechin last year, as well as the subsequent suspension of its China export licence.

£715,000 was issued to eligible producers who had supplied the Quality Pig Processors (QPP) plant at Brechin for the Covid-related price reductions they suffered.

It was extended in January 2022 by a further £680,000 and will now see an additional - and final - £410,000 of support made available, bringing the scheme total to just over £1.8 million.

However, for producers in England, who are also struggling with soaring costs of feed, labour, fuel, haulage and energy, Defra has repeatedly turned down requests for support.

The National Pig Association (NPA) said the department must take similar action to support English producers, many of whom were "standing on the brink of being forced to quit".