Change of fortune, but uncertainty ahead

Shane McAuliffe’s family produces 50,000 pigs per year for the Truly Irish brand. He is secretary of the Irish Pig Health Society, secretary of the Irish branch of the European Pig Producers and sits on the Irish Farmers Association national pig and pigmeat committee

My January article hoped for a better 2019 for Irish pig farmers after going through the worst year in two decades.

That stagnant price of €1.40/kg has now turned into €1.80/kg, which we have been at for the last three months. This increase largely happened throughout May.

Prices had remained at €1.50/kg when the 50th anniversary of the Irish Pig Health Society Symposium occurred in early April.

Despite usually seeing a poor turnout of farmers when prices are low, we, in fact, had the best turnout in as many years as I could remember. With the country’s largest processor, Rosderra, being the keynote speaker, and an Irish Farmers Association emergency pig farmer meeting the night before, it seemed that farmers came looking for answers.

In terms of the market, in the first six months of 2019 exports were down 7% overall to 133,300 tonnes.

The biggest drop (13%) has been with exports to the UK, which took 49,100t, offset by a 40% increase to China, which took 40,000t. Bord Bia has started a €4m pork and beef campaign targeting Vietnam, the Philippines and South Korea, all hit by African swine fever, which will increase our South East Asian exports.

I have been extremely happy with the work our National Disease Control Centre has been doing to protect our borders from ASF.

I have been to 11 countries this year, including trips where I had pig contact with herds positive for diseases not prevalent in Ireland.

Upon entry to Ireland I have been impressed by the biosecurity measures in place. There have been no pigs at agricultural events this year. The risk of ASF-infected pigmeat being consumed by an Irish pig is relatively low.

An Animal Health Ireland (AHI) pig levy starts this month – four cents will be collected per pig slaughtered and the Government is matching this with €125,000 towards an AHI-led National Pig Health Check Programme.
You may have read in Pig World that I was selected as an EU Pig Ambassador for my work in community management. All farmers can be community managers and the role is more important than ever as more and more consumers are keen to learn where their food comes from.

Unfortunately, Ireland saw its first serious animal rights activist event in June, where activists illegally entered a pig farm and remained there for over six hours, live streaming footage. It is up to us to share all that is positive about our industry.

I took two months out to finish my Masters with the Royal Veterinary College and I am delighted that my thesis,Associations between disease status and performance, respiratory lesions and antibiotic use on Irish pig farms, will be published in the Irish Veterinary Journal shortly. I could not have asked for two better supervisors in Dr Edgar Garcia Manzanilla and Dr Maria Costa, from Teagasc.

I am now back into my part-time Easyfix role, catching up on the progress our international dealers have made marketing our range of environmental enrichment products.

The Irish beef dispute has now entered its eighth week and there is a predicted glut of 70,000 cattle. The blockades of slaughterhouses have had a negative impact as some facilities also process pigmeat. Perhaps the shortage of beef on supermarket shelves mean consumers will turn to pork?

We can’t deny the facts that the UK is our number one export market and the very near threat of a no deal Brexit will be catastrophic.

But for the time being, we can expect to see China and other ASF-infected countries driving our exports.

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