Greater investment into education and training in Northern Ireland’s pig industry has been called for by the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU).
The call comes after UFU and College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) met to discuss currently training provisions for students and farmers and identified scope for new ideas to bring fresh talent into the industry.
Glen Cuddy, UFU pork and bacon committee chairman, says that despite significant progress in recent years, the industry is still facing major challenges.
“Our industry had sales of almost £160 million last year and is a key contributor to the local economy, both on farms and through jobs in processing,” he said.
“However, many farmers are finding it difficult to acquire and retain quality labour on pig units, and there is a lack of awareness of the long-term employment opportunities available in the sector.
“Education and training is a logical way to change this. We want to see a greater emphasis on pig production systems within the CAFRE agricultural degree course, providing students with practical on-farm experience.
“Additionally, there is merit in apprenticeship schemes for those aged between 16 to 24, with a potential interest in the industry. There is also a need for ongoing training opportunities for those already within the sector to expand their existing skill set.
“A combination of these courses would go a long way towards developing the skills our industry needs to advance and thrive.”
The UFU said it will continue to engage with CAFRE to discuss the delivery of these training opportunities.