A HUGE downturn in piggeries in the Lismore area is being blamed on cheap imports, State Government regulation and an unwillingness to take on struggling businesses.
An economic profile prepared for Lismore council showed the value of pig-related agriculture in the Lismore LGA fell from $20 million in 2005/06 to $2 million in 2010/11.
"I don't think it's too hard to extrapolate that a loss of $18 million means there are a lot of jobs involved," the council's business facilitator Mark Batten said.
"For me, this is a disaster for our local economy."
The profile, based on Australian Bureau of Statistics data, also showed a $9 million drop in the nut industry for the same period.
It used to be that nearly every farmer that had dairy cows also had some pigs. Deregulation pushed a lot of the old farmers out, or they moved to beef and got rid of the pigs.
- Steve Penfold of the Booyong abattoir
"I think that's a global market conversation rather than a local market one, but it shows the whims that (farmers) are exposed to," Mr Batten said.
With Christmas comes a spike in ham sales, but some butchers are finding it harder to source it locally.
Award-winning South Lismore butchery Hutley Brothers has sourced local products but said the industry had certainly shrunk.
"It's impossible to operate with imports coming in. The market's shrunk and (small farms) can't compete against that cheap stuff coming in from overseas," Graeme Hutley said.
John Singh operates a piggery at Bangalow and trades under the name Byron Bay Pork. He said they had only survived by developing niche markets.
"We started doing the farmers' markets and getting into the restaurants in Byron and now we are supplying to David Jones in Sydney," he said.
Steve Penfold operates an abattoir at Booyong and said the decline in piggeries could be traced to deregulation of the dairy industry.
"It used to be that nearly every farmer that had dairy cows also had some pigs," he said.
"Deregulation pushed a lot of the old farmers out, or they moved to beef and got rids of the pigs.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.