25 December 1998

Aid package out for pigs

THE government has no intention of providing an aid package for pig farmers.

And according to junior farm minister Jeff Rooker, farmers must help themselves out of the current crisis.

Giving evidence to parliaments agriculture select committee, Mr Rooker said state aids were not under consideration. France had already been taken to task by the EU Commission for paying state aids to pig farmers that contravened EU rules.

MAFF was also unlikely to ask the Treasury to allow losses to be rolled over three years instead of one for tax purposes. Mr Rooker believed that treasury ministers would be unlikely to agree to a change just to help pig farmers.

He also ruled out any quick introduction of a dedicated pig rendering plant which could then export meat and bonemeal. Although accepting that the British pig industry was being penalised for BSE, which had resulted in the total ban on MBM in the UK, he said that if porcine MBM was exported then there was a danger that it would get incorporated into pig feed elsewhere.

Asked about the Meat and Livestock Commission, currently under government review, Mr Rooker indicated that he was "neutral" on the issue of whether the pig promotional remit should be moved to another body. But he was adamant that, whatever happened in the future, the industry needed to support the MLCs plans for 1999.

The industry had to pull together and market pigmeat, he said, highlighting the need for farmers to add value and focus on collaborative marketing.