14 January 2000

Act now or pig industry dies…

By Alistair Driver

THE government must act quickly if the pig industry is to survive and an estimated 24,000 jobs under immediate threat are to be saved, a National Pig Association/British Pig Executive report published this week concludes.

It paints a grim picture of the past 18 months, claiming 25,000 industry-related jobs have already gone and that financial losses have hit £340m. With losses still accumulating at £4m a week, the report concludes the situation will continue to deteriorate unless support is received through the market or the government.

Sow slaughterings are currently running at 5000/week above average and MAFF census figures show a continuing contraction of the UK herd.

Andrew Saunders, managing director of the countrys biggest integrated pig production operation BQP/BPF, said his business would have struggled to survive if it had not had had its own processing facilities.

The report, The British Pig Industry Crisis: The Economic and Social Costs, says the capital value of pig farms is estimated to have fallen by two-thirds, while industry borrowings have reached over £200m, equating to an extra 4p/kg on cost in interest and repayment on loans.

Most of the estimated 14,000 job losses occurred in the supply industries, which have seen an estimated £500m fall in turnover. A further 17,000 jobs are threatened in this sector, it says.

The report blames the collapse in prices on high EU production levels and the strength of sterling, which is costing the British industry £1.5m a week.

In addition, UK producers are also suffering costs not imposed on other EU producers, such as the stall and tether ban and costs associated with the control of BSE in cattle, estimated at £90m.

This has paved the way for an in increase in imports of around 30,000 tonnes in 1999, and a decrease in exports of 40,000 tonnes.

National Pig Association chief executive Mike Sheldon can see no end to the crisis without urgent intervention. He said: "The case for special industry support measures is now irresistible.

"We are still trying to persuade MAFF to get together with us to produce a joint application for state aid to present to the EU Commission."