19 May 1995

Stall ban dents pig


This years British Pig and Poultry Fair was a well attended but nervous event. Pig prices have rallied but most producers are still nursing wounds after three years poor prices. Cash needed to replace sow stalls and tethers could be the final straw. Egg producers have also seen prices fall by 15% over the past year. Fighting talk from both sectors didnt restore widespread confidence

CONFIDENCE in the future of the British pig industry has been damaged by UK legislation to ban sow stalls and tethers from Jan 1, 1999.

Evidence comes from an NFU/Pig Farming survey to which producers representing 25% of the British sow herd responded.

Results were revealed at last weeks Pig and Poultry Fair staged at the NAC, Stoneleigh, Wariwicks. They suggest the legislation, which is being introduced in the UK six years ahead of the rest of Europe, could lead to the loss of over 55,000 breeding sows after the ban is applied.

That loss represents some 13% of the national pig breeding herd.

"With fewer sows the industry would be less able to produce pigmeat for its own market, leaving a gap which could be picked up by the Danes and Dutch," said NFU deputy president Tony Pexton.

The NFU maintains lack of producer confidence has been exacerbated by two years of depressed prices, and the likelihood of an increasingly competitive meat market following CAP reform and implementation of the GATT agreement.

Producers had also contrasted the illegal national assistance made available to competing producers in other EU member states with the laissez-faire attitude of the British government. This was reflected in the EU December census which showed a contraction of 3.9% in the UK breeding herd compared with a fall of 3% in the EU against a 2.7% increase in the French herd.

"It is not the amount of aid the French received, but the act of confidence it gave that industry," said NFU pig committee chairman Richard Campbell.

"We are asking for government action that will show the UK industry it can have the confidence to progress," he said.

Many UK producers felt vulnerable to further unilateral legislation, which could also be implemented without compensation, to erode their competitive position.

NFU pig adviser Dafydd Owen said the survey results strengthened the case to present to MAFF for grant-aid to help finance the welfare-friendly accommodation needed to replace sow stalls. The NFU is also seeking provision of individual sow housing for the first 35 days of pregnancy.