19 January 2001

One in four pig men wants out

MOREthan one in four pig farmers either wants to leave the industry or has stopped farming in the past three years, suggests the response to a government scheme paying farmers to quit production.

MAFF has sent out over 2000 application forms to pig farmers interested in its "outgoers" scheme which opened last month. The enquiries represent more than a quarter of the 7200 eligible farmers who had herds of more than 50 pigs in June 1998, according to official MAFF figures.

The scheme is part of a £66 million, three-year programme to restructure Britains pig industry and compensate those who have quit since June 1998. Stewart Houston of the National Pig Association said last years swine fever outbreak had been the final straw for many producers.

British pig farmers claim they have been unable to compete against cut-price pigmeat imports since the UK banned stall-and-tether production systems in 1999. This week Brussels proposed a stall-and-tether ban across the European Union – but it will not fully come into force until 2012.

European food safety commissioner David Byrne said: "The intensification of pig farming over the past 10 years has led to practices which caused unnecessary suffering and are also increasingly counter-productive."

The Brussels proposals will be presented to the European Parliament for consultation before European agriculture ministers make a final decision later in the year.