17 April 1997

Dutch production cut may open doors to UK pigmeat exports

By Philip Clarke

Europe Editor

FRESH opportunities to export UK pigmeat could soon be opened up, after a Dutch government decision to take out 25% of its own pig production by the end of 2000.

Under the controversial scheme, passed last week, Dutch pig farmers will be allocated tradable quotas based on 1997 output (both for sows and finishers) and told to produce 10% less this year. The remaining 15% will come out during the following two years.

A long-term problem with manure levels in the Netherlands has been the driving force behind the new legislation, though last years classical swine fever outbreaks convinced the authorities of the need to restructure.

Farmers and traders have condemned the size of cuts and lack of compensation and are preparing to take the government to the national and European courts.

The impact on the UK remains to be seen, says Meat and Livestock Commission pig strategist, Mick Sloyan. The drop in Dutch output could see fewer live exports to Germany and Spain. "Germany is our largest export market for pork and if it is not getting supplies from the Netherlands, it may look for more UK product," he says.

Alternatively, if the rationalisation results in less carcass production in the Netherlands, that could benefit UK bacon suppliers.

lUKpig prices rose early this week, but levels were still 15% below those of a year ago. Animals were trading between 61p and 74p/kg lw at markets on Monday, depending on weight and quality. These prices equate to deadweight returns of between about 81p and 98p/kg. But there is little cheer for farmers at these levels, with Signet putting production costs at 103p/kg dw. &#42