In 1960, there were 110,000 pig farmers registered with the Department of Agriculture, while today there are just 270, Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) pig committee chair Roy Gallie, who described it as a "frightening statistic", said.

Speaking during a meeting in Portlaoise on Wednesday 6 December, Gallie said that every pig farmer is filled with apprehension as they watch the profit they hoped would move the bank balance from red to green disappear.

The meeting was organised in the wake of seven pig price drops handed down by processors in the last three months.

Over 100 pig farmers turned up at the meeting, which took place in the Killeshin Hotel.

'Frightening statistic'

"At the beginning of last year in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel, I quoted a frightening statistic to you and to Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue that in 1960, when I was five years old, there were 110,000 pig farmers registered in this country with the Department of Agriculture - this had reduced to 300 commercial pig farmers then.

"Since that meeting, this frightening statistic has continued and has dropped further to below 270 commercial pig farms today."

Gallie went on to explain how environmental legislation is currently expecting pig farmers to invest "considerable sums of money" to ensure their units are to required standards.

"Just this week in Brussels, the triologues concluded their decision process on the thresholds that will apply to pig farms for licensing.

"They have set it at 350 livestock units. This means that every integrated pig farm with more than 95 sows will have to get an EPA license. Another shiver went up my back with this news," Gallie said.

He described this as another blow to the Irish family pig farm.