The pig sector is the third most important agricultural sector in Ireland after milk and beef. Its total contribution to the Irish economy was valued at €1.5bn in 2021.

Almost 295,000t of pigmeat were exported at an export value of €934m. There are over 8,000 jobs in the sector, mostly in rural areas, and an annual pig sector economy spend of €897m.

Despite this, over the past 18 months, the sector has endured the worst economic crisis in living memory, with an average-sized 600-sow herd losing over €500,000 in that period. This downturn has resulted in a drop in the Irish pig herd of almost 13,000 sows or 9% of the national herd across 16 to 17 family farms, most of whom will not return to pig production.

The initial outlook is for a more positive year ahead in 2023, and though feed ingredient prices are moving up and down, prices for the main ingredients (barley, wheat, maize) are on a downward trend, while soya bean remains stubbornly high.

It looks like feed prices will hold their own for the moment. We expect pig price to move up and help a return to profitability, so it’s disappointing to see recent drops in Irish pig price a few weeks ago, and the current slow response to rising prices right across Europe.

The Irish pig price is currently at €2.02/kg deadweight while those in our competitor countries have risen significantly (France €2.55/kg dead, Spain €2.32/kg dead and Germany €2.20/kg dead, respectively).

Pig prices here will have to follow these European prices and rise again quickly if we are to maintain the current herd size and continue to produce quality-assured pigmeat for domestic and international markets.