The pig price is in the cellar, the animals accumulate in the stables. What does that mean for those affected? A farmer from Brandenburg reports.
At the beginning of the year, the pig farmers received a good 1.80 euros per kilo for their animals, now it is 1.19 euros. At the same time, 590,000 pigs are jostling in the stables due to the corona restrictions in the slaughterhouses. Politicians want to help the farmers, as Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner (CDU) told the state ministers on Friday. Aids for private storage are being discussed so that meat only comes back onto the market when prices rise, aid of up to 20,000 euros and the expansion of Corona aid to farmers. Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) should now clarify whether this is possible. But hope is in sight in another area: According to his own statements, market leader Tönnies is now slaughtering almost as much as before the Corona outbreak.
But how are pig farmers dealing with the crisis? What does that mean for those affected when prices plummet and they can’t get rid of their animals? Sandra Dassler interviewed a pig farmer in the Brandenburg region. Here is his report. The man wants to remain anonymous in order to keep his company and family from harm.
“We pig farmers do not need private storage, but Corona aid. After all, we are no less affected by the pandemic than innkeepers or other people in need. The closure of the Slaughterhouses, not only von Tönnies, has led to a catastrophe because we can no longer get rid of our pigs. And that’s not over yet, as the current outbreak with more than 80 infected people in Vilshofen in Bavaria shows.
Fortunately, there was always enough space in my stables – also because we sold some of the pigs to Poland. With losses, of course, but we accepted them in order not to have to leave our piglet producers in the lurch. They also lost their customers.
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My colleagues have converted garages into stables
But I know professional colleagues who, because they couldn’t get rid of their slaughter-ready animals, converted barns and even garages into stables, which was anything but easy. After all, we are dealing with living beings – and yes, we do think about it, even if some militant animal rights activists may not do it for us.
Above all, the constant short-term cancellations of the slaughterhouses were and are stressful for people and animals: On the one hand, because the animals are being prepared for transport to the slaughterhouse. They only get water and no food because they have to be sober. On the other hand, you have already ordered new supplies, i.e. piglets, cleaned and prepared the stalls – and then suddenly it says: “We cannot take your animals. Closed because of Corona. “My people were sometimes on the verge of desperation.
If the pigs are too heavy, there is less money
And then the financial losses. The ideal slaughter weight for a pig is between 82 and 105 kilos. If you only have them in the barn for a few days longer, the animals quickly weigh 120 kilos. You are punished for this and get around 15 to 20 euros less per animal. Although you need more food.
Added to this is the general drop in the price of pork because hotels and restaurants are closed and curry sausages are no longer sold even in the football stadiums. All in all, that’s about 50 euros less per pig. I expect a loss of 1.2 million euros in sales in 2020. Therefore, it is completely incomprehensible why pig farmers do not receive corona compensation.
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The African swine fever makes things even more difficult. Many questions arise: Why was the fence to Poland not built earlier? Why is it taking so long in Brandenburg now? In the Czech Republic and even in Saxony it works much faster. But above all: Why is the disease control primarily left to the districts, which do not even uniformly stipulate that free-range pig farming is compulsory.
Why is there no task force against swine fever?
You can also see that something like this has to be controlled centrally with Corona. Why is there no national task force being formed? On the contrary: In North Rhine-Westphalia there is a so-called wildlife disease prevention society that is prepared and specialized for outbreaks such as African swine fever – why are these experts not deployed in the affected areas in Brandenburg? And why is the Federal Agriculture Minister not getting the so-called regionalization done? Why can’t she make it clear to China that African swine fever was only detected in wild boars in Brandenburg and Saxony and not in all other federal states. Why has this not been negotiated at the highest level, i.e. by the Federal Chancellery? If the other federal states could deliver to China again, the price would go up and the slaughterhouses would be relieved significantly, which in turn would also benefit the pig farmers here.
I am responsible for over 5,000 pigs, several permanent employees, my family and looking after the population. If I do not live up to this responsibility, I must answer for it. This is my own risk. With many politicians I have the feeling that they have never had to take their own risk if they influence livelihoods through inaction or wrong actions. I mean, above all, the closing of slaughterhouses. Other solutions urgently needed to be found for them, a kind of emergency operation, because they are simply systemically relevant for the food supply of the population.
What hurts the most: the blatant disdain for our work
But what hurts me and many of my colleagues the most is the blatant disregard for our work. There is no respect for and no recognition for those people who secure our food. On the contrary: My children are sometimes cursed as abusers of animals, even though we take good care of our pigs. Of course there are black sheep among pig farmers – but in which industry are they not?
If it continues like this, we will soon no longer have our own farmers in Germany. Production is leaving here, but the demand is not decreasing. That is also why we need recognition and now also Corona aid. Just like other industries. ”