Pig aid cash not guaranteed
By Alistair Driver
THERE is no guarantee that the £66m available under the pig industry restructuring scheme will be paid to farmers, the National Pig Association has warned.
The first phase of the three year scheme, the "outgoers" part, was launched on Monday by farm minister, Nick Brown. He said the second part of the scheme, the ongoers element enabling farmers to restructure their businesses, should be open early next year. "The aim of outgoers is to reduce breeding capacity by 16% compared with what was available in June 1998 to allow the British pig industry to begin its restructuring."
The success of both schemes depends on applications for the outgoers scheme covering this 16% threshold, equating to 120,000 sows, the NPA has warned. If it is not met at the end of the three-month application period that started on Monday, the money could be held back under EU state aid rules, said NPA chief executive, Mike Sheldon. The national herd has declined by 20% since June 1998. And Mr Sheldon said he is confident the target will be met, particularly in the wake of the swine fever crisis which may encourage more producers to take advantage of help to get out of the industry.
But the ideal applicants are producers who have already been forced out. They could enable the target to be met without further industry contraction, he said.
Mr Sheldon emphasised the importance of getting the message that money is now available across to ex-producers, who may have no contact left with the pig industry.
Successful applicants under the outgoers scheme will be barred from keeping pigs on holdings for 10 years. Bids will be based on a valuation of facilities where they still exist and the loss in value of holdings as a result of them being barred from keeping pigs.
MAFF is still awaiting formal clearance for the ongoers scheme. Mr Brown said he is confident he will get the go ahead this month. *