IT is hard to imagine a market with such differing outcomes as Dublin this week.
While the sheep and lamb market continued its strong run, and heavy lambs made up to a very healthy $220 on Tuesday, for pig producers it was a very different story.
Female baconers averaged $1.80 a kilogram, close to half of the $3.43/kg they were making at the same time last year.
And, male baconers went as low as $1.20/kg.
Dublin pig auctioneer Garry Tiss said he had never seen prices drop so low.
“It’s just unbelievable, with these prices you’re barely covering the cost of feed,” he said.
Mr Tiss said the market was even tougher than in the 1990s when the Garibaldi food poisoning cases turned consumers away from pork smallgoods.
“At the time of the Garibaldi scare, there was a saying that pork was cheaper than dog meat, and it seems to be the case again,” he said.
Mr Tiss said the market was usually lower in April, when public holidays mean shorter weeks and less time for processing.
But, this year has been particularly bad because of the sheer number of pigs out on the market.
As producers struggle to move their stock, heavier pigs are being sent in to market, also leading to lower overall returns.
“Processors’ freezers are full at the moment and it’s going to take time to clean them out,” Mr Tiss said.
The strange aspect to the price freefall is that Australian consumers are eating more pork than ever before.
According to ABARES data, the amount of pigmeat eaten has overtaken beef consumption, at 27.9kg a person annually, compared with 27.6kg for beef.
This is a massive jump in consumption across the past four decades, as only 11.7kg of pigmeat was eaten annually in 1975.
But, pigmeat’s 27.9kg still lags a long way behind Australia’s most popular meat – chicken – at 45.3kg.
Mr Tiss said the pig market usually picked up in June and July and he was hopeful this would be the case again this year.
“An upturn can’t come too soon,” he said.