29 October 1999

Pig industry dispute

CONTROVERSY is raging over the future direction the National Pig Association should take, following the resignation of one of its co-chairmen.

Graham England stepped down just before the NPAs first formal meeting, saying the group should forge closer links with the NFU presidency and criticising farm minister Nick Brown.

But John Godfrey, who has since been elected sole chairman, believes the NPA already has good ties with the NFU. The group has pressurised Mr Brown into doing more for the beleaguered industry, he said.

Mr England and Mr Godfrey oversaw the formation of the new pig producers group in June from the merger of the NFU pig council and the British Pig Association.

Although some reports have quoted Mr England as saying he felt the NPA was a backward step, he told farmers weekly that "things had not gone wrong" since the group was founded.

Instead, he said that as his work in setting up the organisation was complete, it seemed an appropriate time to bow out. "I had to give my commitment for three years and felt that I didnt want to do that," said Mr England. "I thought it was time to let someone younger take it forward." Mr England was clear on the role the farming union should play. "It is essential for the NPA to use the NFU presidency in its work. The NPA is weaker without NFU support."

Mr Godfrey disagrees. "Ive no problem with having close ties with the NFU. In fact, I believe we need close ties with the NFU. The idea is that we speak for the industry and can use the weight of the NFU when we need."

The future direction of the NPA is now in question. Ian Campbell, NPA spokesman for East Anglia, believes the best way forward is for Mr Godfrey to resign as well and make way for someone who does not have close allegiances to either of the merged groups, he said. Mr Campbell, who is also a spokesman for the British Pig Industry Support Group, warned that the NPA should not get closer to the NFU, which some members perceive as being too conservative.

The NPA estimates that 30 percent of members will be forced into receivership by Christmas. Producers have been losing money for the past 18 months and each pig is sold at a £7 loss. Extra costs from improved animal welfare, the strength of sterling and knock-on costs from the BSE crisis are blamed. &#42