BBC NEWS
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC News UK Edition
 You are in: Special Report: 1999: 09/99: Farming in crisis  
News Front Page
World
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
UK Politics
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
Education
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
CBBC News
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Farming in crisis Tuesday, 14 September, 1999, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
N Ireland - a pig farmer's tale
The final litter at a County Tyrone farm
The final litter at a County Tyrone farm
The slump in farming fortunes has hit hard in Northern Ireland, where incomes fell by 57% last year - twice the national average.

The BBC's Agriculture Correspondent in Belfast, Martin Cassidy spotlights the decline in the Province's pig industry.

Farming in crisis
It is a full two years since pig producers in this region have made any money.

Losses have mounted, forcing hundreds of farmers out of the industry.

Aubrey Hawkes:
Aubrey Hawkes: "Bitterly disappointed"
Aubrey Hawkes is one of the farmers having to find a new career outside agriculture.

Taking over the pig enterprise from his father on their farm near Omagh, in just eight years he had built it up to 70 sows.

But no amount of hard work has been enough to withstand the slump in the pig market. Aubrey feels bitterly disappointed about having to give up pigs but with losses mounting every week "there was no option".

All the work he has put in and the investment in new housing has been for nothing and Aubrey has now got a job as a lorry driver. It is not the career he wanted but the regular income means he can plan for the future.

Cruel twist of fate

The recession in the pig market was made worse when in June 1998 one of the largest pig processing factories in Northern Ireland was destroyed by fire.

The loss of the slaughter capacity at the Lovell and Christmas factory resulted in a build up of pigs on farms. The government responded with a welfare slaughter scheme where pigs were put down and the carcasses disposed of.

The Malton group, which owned the factory at Ballymoney, also tried to alleviate the overcrowding on farms by shipping pigs to its slaughterhouses in Britain.

Malton subsequently purchased one of the province's other major pork processing groups, Unipork, but with a 23% reduction in the breeding herd in the past 12 months, the industry remains in sharp decline.

'Every pig sold loses money'

The chairman of the Pork and Bacon Forum blames the high value of sterling for many of the industry's woes.

Robert Overend, himself a pig farmer, says the high pound has made exporting difficult and resulted in a flood of low priced imports onto the United Kingdom market.

Mr Overend says that forecasters predicted that 1999 would bring a return to profitability but that producers are still losing around 10 on every pig.

He sees a bleak future for this sector of UK farming. "A 100-kilo pig going off the farm would be costing a minimum of 60 and the farmer is receiving on average 51, so he his still 9 short of break even price," he says.

The biggest concern, he says, is that the young people are disappearing from the industry.

As many as 800 farmers have got out of pig production in recent years, while many of those remaining are depending on extended credit from banks and feed companies.

The outlook for the Northern Ireland pig sector very much depends on the strength of sterling and with the pound hovering around the 3 deutschmark level, there seems to be no immediate prospect of a return to profitability.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Video
BBC NI's Agriculture Correspondent Martin Cassidy: "Twenty-five years ago farming had a future"
Audio
Robert Overend: Sees a bleak future for pig farmers
See also:

24 Jul 99 | Europe
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Farming in crisis stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Farming in crisis stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
UK Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes