Price volatility is an ongoing challenge for the pig sector and developments over the last few years simply serve to emphasise the cyclical nature of prices in the industry. Current prices at €1.38.30 c/kg are well below prices at the same time in 2017, which was a very good year for pig prices, but remain above the level of price in the same period in both 2015 and 2016.
My Department has made a particular effort to support market diversification for the sector over recent years. The importance of this is well illustrated by the dramatic expansion in Ireland’s pig meat exports to the Far East, and to China in particular, against the background of the closure of the Russian market in 2014. And of course the uncertainty around Brexit lends an even greater importance to trade promotion in international markets.
In June 2017 I visited Mexico, now the fourth largest global importer of chilled and frozen pork. With Mexican demand for pork continuing to grow I have made gaining access to that market a priority. I also travelled to Japan and South Korea last autumn where I promoted the development of further opportunities for Irish producers in these jurisdictions as I want to continue to diversify the range of markets to which Ireland has access. Exports to Japan more than doubled to €22m in 2017 putting it in second place in international markets. The new free trade agreement with Japan (JEEPA) should further enhance trade opportunities.
Growth in the Philippines was also strong: up 54 % making it the third largest international market for Irish pigmeat exports.
With Irish production up almost 1% in 2017 and export value increasing some 14% to an estimated €712m, I intend to continue to work with the sector and, by focusing on insight-led growth strategies, continue to take advantage of opportunities for Irish pig meat on international markets.