Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots met with representatives of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) Pork and Bacon Committee and Propork Ltd, a pig marketing group, to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on the local pig production sector.

The minister heard about the challenges faced by farmers supplying Cranswick Country Foods pig processing plant when it closed temporarily for two weeks in late August and the financial impact it had on their businesses.

The minister said:

I recognise the financial impact that the temporary closure of this processing plant had on these farmers’ businesses and I am willing to offer some government support to offset the losses incurred.

“Further details of the scheme will be announced in the next few weeks but payments should not be anticipated until early in 2021.”

UFU deputy president William Irvine said:

“We welcome the announcement by the DAERA minister that government will provide support for pig producers who were directly impacted by Cranswick’s temporary closure in August of this year.

It has been a very difficult period for the pig sector and this support will be vital to help sustain farm businesses.

“We will continue to work with DAERA to get this scheme launched so pig producers can benefit from this support as quickly as possible.”

Remote video inspection

Poots also added:

I was pleased to hear that the first ever real time, remote video inspection of a pig processing plant by Chinese officials took place recently.

“This allowed for the participation of experts from across the UK and China and involved officials from a broad spectrum of departments including Health, Food Standards and DAERA.

“The Chinese officials were highly complimentary of the standards demonstrated by Cranswick Country Foods.

This is good news and contributes to the sustainability and profitability of the local pig production sector.

Almost 11,300 livestock farmers have already received approximately £18.1 million in recent weeks to offset the losses incurred as a result of the pandemic’s impact on the agri-food sector earlier this year.