18 September 1998

Brussels pays pigmeat traders storage costs

By Philip Clarke

PRIVATE storage aid is being introduced by Brussels to help take some of the pressure off the pig market, currently trading at historic lows.

On Tuesday the Commission succumbed to member state pressure to introduce the aid from Sept 28. Under the new scheme, meat traders will be paid to store pigmeat for either four, five or six months, with payment varying according to cuts. Legs, shoulders and fore-ends, for example, will get about 25.7p/kg for the four-month option, 28.4p/kg for five months and 31.3p/kg for six months to cover the cost of storage.

An extra condition says that all product must be exported outside the EU within 60 days of coming out of store. But the management committee turned down requests from France and Holland this week for a further increase in export subsidies.

The PSA scheme has been welcomed by pig slaughterers who anticipate wide uptake across the EU. "A very useful subsidy," is how Mark Adams of Lincs-based George Adams and Sons described it. "The rates look quite attractive, though the problem will be finding sufficient export markets outside the EU."

But there is widespread dismay in the industry that, so far, the commission has turned a blind eye to France, where last week the government announced a comprehensive programme of national aids.

Aimed at new entrants and family farms who have recently invested, the STABIPORC programme offers cash advances, worth Ffr50 (£5) a head for the first 750 pigs, and Ffr30 (£3) a head for the next 750 pigs. The maximum payment is Ffr60,000 (£6000) a producer.

The scheme will be funded to the tune of Ffr348 (£35m) from the banks and Ffr72m (£7m) from meat trade body, OFIVAL. Interest will be charged at "attractive rates", according to French farm minister, Louis le Pensec.

French pig producers will also benefit from the postponement of national insurance charges, a Ffr70m (£7m) fund to cover bank interest and Ffr30m (£3m) in grants for new entrants. A crisis centre is being opened to deal with applications.

The package is being introduced, despite the fact the Commission declared STABIPORC illegal in 1994.

"The whole pig sector is in a desperate situation," said NFU pig chairman, Graham England. "But we just cant have a single member state treating its farmers differently to everyone else.

"The trouble is, even though the STABIPORC loans are refundable, last time it took two to three years to agree this, by which time producers were back in profit." &#42