By Peter Crichton

MAFF has reported a higher-than-expected uptake for applications for the Pig Outgoers Scheme, with over 1500 application forms being sent out.

The aim of the Outgoers Scheme is to achieve a 16% reduction in the UK breeding pig capacity calculated in June 1998, equivalent to around 124,000 sows.

Pig analysts have been quick to point out that the size of the UK herd over that period has already fallen by around 20%.

If the number of applications includes a significant proportion of current producers – rather than those who have cleared their herds since June 1998 – this will lead to a further drop in the number of UK pigs coming on to the market.

Details of the MAFF Ongoers Scheme – which will provide a 5% interest-rate subsidy to eligible farmers – are expected to be announced by MAFF next week.

This should allow some existing producers to decide whether to opt for Outgoers or Ongoers aid.

Breeding companies are reporting a much better demand for replacement gilts.

But until the next set of MAFF census results are available, it will be difficult to confirm whether or not the size of the UK pig herd has stabilised or is still falling.

In the office, UK producers are facing a rising mound of paperwork, with applications for Climate Change Levy rebates needing to be submitted by the end of next week and the additional burden of IPPC (Integrated Pollution Prevention & Control) regulations to be faced.

Although the IPPC rules will only apply to intensive producers with more than 750 sows or 2000 finisher pigs and are delayed until 2007 for existing pig units, these rules will apply with immediate effect as far as any new buildings or alterations are concerned.

The rules are designed to ensure that producers use what are known as “best available techniques” for protecting the environment, covering emissions to air, water and land.

Registration could cost producers at least 3000, with an annual charge probably exceeding 2000 per annum.

The outlook therefore remains unsettled on a number of fronts, although in the immediate future UK retail demand remains strong.

Once the surplus at Malton Pigs has been cleared up, marketeers expect prices to stabilise before the normal March-May seasonal rise kicks in.

farmersfield.co.uk