Addressing a protest by farmers outside Kerry Foods in Shillelagh, Co Wicklow today (Fri), IFA National Chairman Jer Bergin accused companies that trade on their Irish brands of failing pig producers by using imported pigmeat. He said they will have to step up and make a far greater effort to support Irish pig farmers and stop misleading consumers about the origin of their products. The latest Bord Bia results for the last quarter of 2015 show that only 22% of Galtee rashers have the Quality Assured logo, signifying Irish origin.
The protest was held to vent the anger felt by pig farmers at the persistent use by processors of brands that portray Irish origin on non-Irish product, while Irish pig farmers are experiencing the worst income crisis in decades. Pig prices are currently more than 20c/kg below the cost of production, meaning a loss to the average pig farmer of €5,000 per week.
Jer Bergin said, “Pig farmers are constantly told by processors that the home market gives the greatest return for their product. For this reason, farmers have made huge efforts to protect their home market, but the continued use of non-Irish pig meat in household brands such as Galtee, Denny and others is clearly undermining that effort.”
IFA National Pigs Committee Chairman Pat O’Flaherty said, “Pig farmers are insisting that companies with Irish brands use 100% Bord Bia Quality Assured pig meat in their products and that their labelling clearly indicates country of origin. Companies cannot have the option of using the Bord Bia logo on their brands some of the time and not at other times. This practice is confusing for consumers who have consistently said they want to buy Irish meat and support local farmers.
“All producers are asking for is a level playing field with clarity on origin and a fair margin for their produce. The percentage share of the retail price received by the farmer is currently below 20%, with farmers forced to sell their produce well below the cost of production, while processors and retailers make healthy margins. This is simply not sustainable for any farm business.
“An Irish company like Kerry Foods must appreciate the difficulties in the pig sector and make a more concerted effort to support Irish farmers and stop misleading consumers. Tougher legislation is needed to require country of origin labelling on all pork and bacon products.”