By Peter Crichton

BREEDERS and exporters are taking a long, hard look at the small print attached to the resumption of pigmeat exports.

Meat traders believe that, initially, pigmeat exports will be a trickle rather than a flood. They are pointing to a number of fairly stringent rules that will have to be complied with.

For the export purposes, Great Britain has been divided into four foot-and-mouth-free zones.

These include the Orkneys and Shetland; Scotland; the Eastern and parts of the Southern side of the country; and certain counties in Wales.

Producers on farms in these areas will be able to supply pigmeat to designated abattoirs in virus-free counties, subject to no foot-and-mouth-susceptible stock being delivered to their holdings in the last 30 days.

The 30-day rule will be cut to seven days if the units receive stock – breeding gilts and boars or progeny pigs – from their normal sources of supply, providing that the donor farms are also in virus-free counties.

If there are any foot-and-mouth outbreaks in any of the four regions this will effectively stop exports from the region in question, but not from the remaining three regions.

Although the final details of licensing and other arrangements have yet to be confirmed, it is believed that the MLC will be responsible for on farm inspections of stock before they leave for a designated abattoir on a sealed livestock vehicle.

The cost of this supervision will have to be met by the producer.

Eligible abattoirs must segregate all export-eligible stock and meat from non-eligible categories.

Trade sources believe that only a limited number of abattoirs will initially be prepared to operate on this basis which will mean initial export opportunities will be limited.

Once more plants gear up for the trade, numbers will pick up, according to meat traders.

The abattoir must keep all export-eligible stock separate, both alive and dead, throughout the system, from non-export types.

Carcasses and pigmeat cuts must be detained for a minimum of 24 hours before they can be shipped.

Abattoir operators are saying that this will significantly cut plant throughput on designated days, and some will have to choose between serving the home market or exporting.

For those who decide to go export-only, there will be the option to switch the harder-to-sell shoulder cuts for export and sell the rest of the carcass on the home market, although producers may be expecting a premium for any pigs supplied to export specification.

  • Peter Crichton is a Suffolk-based pig farmer offering independent valuation and consultancy services to the UK pig industry

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