I have been closely monitoring the situation in the pigmeat market and have taken a number of significant measures which have helped Irish pigmeat producers. These measure included securing increased export refunds, the introduction of an aids to private storage scheme and a food aid programme for Russia under which a total of 60,000 tonnes of pigmeat was exported.
Irish pigmeat prices increased by nearly 18% in 1999 and the outlook for this year is positive. While this increase is welcome, I consider that many producers are still in difficulties. I have held discussions with the pigmeat processors on the market situation. I also have had discussions with the banks and feed suppliers, who expressed support for pig producers during this difficult period. I secured EU Commission approval for a debt restructuring package for producers in the Border counties.
I will continue to closely monitor the market situation, and I will not hesitate to take any measures which I consider will improve matters for producers.