With pig slaughtering having resumed at Dawn Pork & Bacon in Grannagh and with pig meat back on shop shelves, some semblance of normality has resumed following last weekend’s dioxin scare.
Following the agreement reached by the Government and pig processors in the early hours of yesterday (Thursday) morning, SIPTU’s Ger Malone understands that Dawn will have a full crew at work over the weekend.
“This is obviously a very bad time for any workers to be out of pocket,” said Ms Malone. “So we would be looking at the company to address this particular concern.”
But the fog that fell on the industry is far from fully lifted, according to the Managing Director of Countrystyle, whose business is also based in Grannagh.
Speaking to The Munster Express, Rory Williams felt that the €180million fund the Government has made available for processors and pig farmers will not cover the financial impact of the total recall of produce.
“I would put the cost closer to €300million,” he said. “The scale of what’s facing the industry is enormous and it’s going to take quite some time to get everything back on track.
“There’s a perception out there that with this Government agreement now in place that things will be back to normal – but that’s not the case, unfortunately.”
In a regular week, Countrystyle has 4,000 square feet of storage space for its produce, which comes with a two-week shelf life.
But with 100 tons of returned produce in various conditions now returned to Grannagh, the company had, at noon yesterday (Thursday), just 300 square metres to work with.
“We’ve had produce left back to us in bin liners, bags, boxes; some of it is still frozen, some of it has thawed out – it might as well be a hundred tons of sand we’re storing,” added Mr Williams.
Reduced capacity
With producers awaiting instruction from the Department of Agriculture regarding the disposal of recalled pork and bacon, valuable storage space for fresh produce is being denied to companies.
This means that plants such as Countrystyle will be working at a reduced capacity until the powers that be figure out what’s to be done with the recalled meat.
“We’ve been back with a limited run since Tuesday and Wednesday, and it’s great to get the product out there,” said Mr Williams.
Heaping praise on the veterinary officers he’s dealt with in recent days (“I couldn’t but laud them for the job they’ve done”), Rory Williams said that “there should have been better control procedures post-recall”.
He added: “While we’ve got most of our people back in action, we’re only doing about a third of the work we would be normally doing. The storage issue is obviously a very big problem right now, so we’re still waiting for the fat lady to sing.”
The Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith has welcomed the full-scale resumption of slaughtering.   “I hope that the thousands of jobs compromised in recent days can now be secured,” he said. “I know well the anxiety felt by pig farmers throughout the country over the past week and I hope that [Thursday] morning’s news will ease their anxieties and concerns.”
Both Martin Cullen, TD, Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, and Deputy Brendan Kenneally, issued statements to The Munster Express voicing their relief that the crisis was over and welcoming the fact that the government was putting in place a contingency fund of €180m for processors and farmers to cover costs arising from the recall of pig meat.
Minister  Cullen commended all those who came together to reach a ‘workable agreement’ saying it would be ‘a relief to concerned pig producers and farm  families in Waterford and the South East, as well as the thousands of employees working in the sector, including the committed workforce based at Dawn Meats’.
Deputy Kenneally said he was delighted that the full range of pork and bacon products would soon be back on our shelves. “This has been a very difficult time for everyone involved in the pork industry throughout Waterford.  It has been difficult for pork farmers, for producers of pork products, for retailers and for the public at large.
“However now that the contamination has been contained anyone involved in the pig meat industry in Waterford can look forward to getting back to work shortly.  The Government had to take decisive action due to the potential risk to the public health.  Through swift action we have seen this crisis kept to a minimum”, he said.