Christmas Q&A special – Irish Farmers Association pigs committee chairman, Pat O’Flaherty

Pat comments on the positive impact of DNA certification in Ireland which helped to semi-maintain prices during what became a very difficult year for producers.  He also celebrates the creation of Ireland’s first HAM-bassador.

Q1 – What was your pig sector highlight/lowpoint of 2014?

“I’m sorry to say that the low points outweigh the highpoints in 2014. What started out relatively positive in terms of prices turned difficult as the impact of the Russian ban gradually increased throughout the year.  We are happy to say that the IFA DNA-certified programmes helped to semi-maintain prices on the Irish market while our processors were successful in exporting our product into the Asian markets.  This kept Irish prices in line with the EU average which was an improvement on previous years.  The industry has become more efficient and we need to continue to drive this on to ensure that the low points in 2015 are few and far between.” 

Q2 – What do you most hope will be achieved by Irish pig producers in 2015?

“A return to profitability is absolutely vital for Irish farmers in 2015.  This has to be a priority for not just the IFA but the factories who are exporting our product and the Government as we are a significant employer and source of revenue in the country.   We would like to secure any shelf space for Irish meat that is currently being filled by imported meat and to see that this is properly labelled.” 

Q3 – What one pig industry experience did you enjoy most in 2015?

“In April, Bord Bia ran a four-week promotional campaign to encourage consumers to switch to ham and bacon with the Bord Bia Quality Mark. The message was to choose quality-assured ham and bacon when shopping as it is produced to Bord Bia’s highest quality standards and can be traced back to the farm.  As part of this promotion, Bord Bia and Today FM called on sandwich aficionados to search for Ireland’s first HAM-bassador.  The best sandwich recipes submitted using Quality Assured Ham or Bacon made it to a live final and I was a judge together with celebrity chef Catherine Fulvio.”

Q4 – Free pig sector comment – something you feel strongly about.

“Legislation is crippling the pig sector in Ireland.  We all appreciate the need for controls but there are regulations being forced upon pig farmers that will lead to vastly increased costs of production and considering the power of the downstream industries, these costs are being carried solely by the producers.  The sow welfare regulations, with which Irish farmers are fully compliant, brought no economic benefit to the farmer even though there was massive cost in the implementation.   The review of the industry BREF (EU document) is another example of this and I am very concerned about the impact of trying to enforce this document across the continent, where pig production densities, facilities and products vary so wildly, will lead to increased costs for pig producers once again.  This has to stop soon or Europe’s biggest meat industry will be inefficient and unable to compete externally.” 

Today’s tasty photo is from M&S whose current Porkwatch rating shows the supermarket stocking 100% British pork, bacon and sausages and 98% British ham. 

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