14 July 1998
BPA takes action on pig price slump

By Boyd Champness

A FIVE-point action plan to help counter the slump in market prices for pigs has been drawn up by the British Pig Association.

It follows widespread concern that pig prices will fall to insupportable levels as the anomalies in the market become more profound. Recent moves by pigmeat processors to set up their own pricing structure have also caused anxiety.

Malton Bacon — Britains biggest bacon group, with 35% of the market — announced it would no longer use the Meat and Livestock Commissions weekly pricing information as a guide to setting its prices; resulting in lower returns for farmers.

Pigmeat imports, over-production throughout Europe, the strength of sterling, the ban of meat and bonemeal (MBM) as a protein supplement and the introduction of farm assurance schemes have all played their part in driving prices down.

John Godfrey, BPA chairman, said UK farmers are angry theyve been forced to comply with tougher animal welfare standards and safety measures while imports from other countries, which dont adhere to the same stringent rules, flood the local market.

In addition, EU pig producers still feed their animals MBM to promote growth. The practice has long been banned in the UK following the BSE crisis.

The BPA also argues pig farmers have been forced to absorb the cost of offal disposal following the MBM ban. This, coupled with the fact that UK farmers cannot use MBM as a feed supplement, has wiped £46 million annually or £2.90 per slaughtered pig from farmers pay cheques, it claims.

With all these factors pushing prices down, the BPA has come up with a five-point plan to stabilise prices. This includes:

  • Appealing to government for support in urging retailers and caterers to buy British pork on the basis of its safety and welfare standards. The BPA said it was encouraged by the governments response to date.

  • Appealing to multiple retailers to introduce country of origin labelling for pigmeat products so consumers can make up their own minds.

  • Maintaining effective liaison with pig marketing organisations.

  • Discussing with major processors how, in co-operation with pig farmers, the industry can grapple with current losses and take appropriate action.

  • Mounting a publicity campaign to alert consumers to the superior value of British pigmeat.