11 December 1998

Plea for urgent action to help pig producers

By Isabel Davies

PIG industry leaders called for urgent government action to help producers at the first session of the agriculture select committees inquiry into the UK pig industry on Tuesday.

The cross-party committee members were told that, in the short term, direct income support, additional promotional funds and temporary aid to reduce offal rendering costs would all help pig farmers.

In the longer term, assurances on improved labelling and sourcing policies were needed from supermarkets.

In its evidence, the NFU described how a combination of factors had combined to lead to "the current unprecedented crisis". Central to the problem was global oversupply, the strength of sterling and higher costs of production because of welfare standards.

With losses of up to £30 a pig, the union calculated the industry loss to be over £6m a week. Urgent measures were needed. But national aids announced in other EU members states should either be matched or stopped, said the NFU.

And according to the British Pig Industry Support Group, government should give priority to addressing the problem of imported pigmeat being produced to less demanding standards than domestic pigmeat.

Retailers should be pressed to ensure that all pigmeat sold in UK retail outlets was sourced from suppliers working to UK standards. Labelling should also be improved to help differentiate imports from home-produced pigmeat.

In its submission, the British Pig Association claimed the government had an obligation to take action. The decision to impose the stall and tether ban had "impaired the competitive status of the industry". If the government wanted a viable pig sector then the additional costs which had been put on the industry must be offset or removed, it said.

The government should also intensify its efforts to encourage caterers, the Ministry of Defence and local authorities to source British pigmeat products. &#42