The Waterford and South Kilkenny economy has been hit hard by the pork dioxin scare, with 320 workers laid off at two local meat plants over the past two days.

Of the 2,000-plus pig industry “We were told on Monday morning that there was no work for us,” said one Dawn employee, one of 260 laid off at the plant. “And we’ve been given no idea when we will be back to work. It’s a very worrying time, to say the least.”

Countrystyle Managing Director Rory Williams, who found himself dealing with a deluge of national and regional media requests on Tuesday, said that approximately 100 tons of their produce has had to be destroyed.

“We’re going to run a huge loss because of the recall,” he said. “There’s also the possibility that consumers will turn their back on the pork industry, but there is comfort to be drawn from the fact that no-one is taking any chances on this.”

Dawn Pork and Bacon were contacted for a comment but none was forthcoming as we went to press.

In already strained times, the latest hit to the local economy couldn’t have been more untimely, given the traditional strong sales of bacon during the Christmas season.

The timing of the dioxin scare means it’s likely that many local kitchens will be ham-free when Christmas dinner is served, even if processing were to resume this weekend.

“Time is of the essence here,” IFA Pigs Committee Chairman Joe Kelly told The Munster Express.

“We’ve got to get processing plants up and running again as soon as possible, because the consequences of that not happening will create problems on an unprecedented scale for our pig farmers. We’ve also got to ensure that what’s happened in recent days never happens again.”

Last weekend’s Government approved recall has left meat processors considerably out of pocket, with the cold storage of stockpiled processed produce also proving a considerable additional expense.

Given that the European Commission has stated that there will be no Brussels sourced compensation for producers, farmers’ anxiety is understandably growing.

That Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith said yesterday that compensation is a matter “to be dealt with on another day” will have done nothing to quell their worries.

EU legislation states that the Government can compensate farmers up to €7,500 over three years, with processors and retailers receiving up to €200,000 over the same timeframe.

“Seven and a half grand isn’t going to get us very far,” said one Waterford pig farmer. “The Government needs to live in the real world.”

Meanwhile, Waterford beef farmers were breathing a sigh of relief after it was announced that there will be no recall of their product despite a small number of positive dioxin tests.