24 July 1998

Pig crisis proposal

A SELF-HELP scheme to lift the pig industry out of a deepening crisis has been proposed by Scotlands biggest pig farmer, Arthur Simmers, who is also vice-chairman of the British Pig Association producers committee.

He proposes a levy of 30p a finished pig to raise £4.5m in a year and pay breeders £50 above the cull price to slaughter sows between 80 to 100 days in pig.

"If an extra 2500 sows a week were culled for 20 weeks from the beginning of August, 500,000 pigs would be removed from the slaughter market for the first six months of 1999." Mr Simmers says the idea has received broad support from Scottish farm minister, Lord Sewel.

"It might be possible to borrow the £750,000 left over in the Aujeszky eradication fund to kick-start the scheme," says Mr Simmers, who has cut the price he pays contract rearers by 30%. Finished pig prices have fallen to 84p/kg deadweight for those on contract while the spot market is down to about 60p. Scottish NFU pigs convenor Andrew Peddie, who has a 250-sow outdoor unit in Fife, says the Simmers proposal was now being discussed within the union. "The position is worse in Scotland because we are short of slaughtering capacity and have transport costs to the south for both finished pigs and weaners."

Wigtownshire producer Robin Christie says he is trying to sell off all his 1000 sows. "I began the process a month ago but have had to stop because the sow price has slumped to 40p/kg deadweight. There is no way that I can afford to replace my sow stalls at current prices. It is the worst crisis that I can remember."

Lord Sewel has warned that contraction in the Scottish pig industry was inevitable. He has ordered a government study into the structure of the industry in Scotland where the breeding herd has expanded by 50% in the past 10 years to 75,000 sows. &#42

Allan Wright