By Peter Crichton

Friday, 9 July, 1999

WELFARE and food safety advantages of the UK pig industry are not getting through to the consumer, according to the British Pig Industry Support Group (BPISG).

Although producer returns have remained static at a time when prices normally slide, the pig industry continues to struggle in negative equity.

To address this point, BPISG members plan to set up High Street stalls inviting consumers to guess which of the many pigmeat products on display were actually produced in this country.

Ian Campbell, chairman of the Eastern BPISG believes many of the major retailers are stocking products with misleading labelling and the small print on an Evesham Country Pie type of line will then refer to an EU-produced source.

He claims few consumers will be aware that the ingredients are not produced to higher UK standards and calls for clearer labelling stressing the actual country of origin in the same way that it is obvious Danish bacon is produced in Denmark.

BPISG members are still waiting a reply from Jeff Rooker, the food safety minister to their 15 June letter calling for a Government response to the dioxin issue.

The minister was asked to confirm that all imported and home-produced pigmeat stocked in the UK could be guaranteed dioxin free.

Failing such an announcement the BPISG asked the minister to confirm that although he could guarantee all UK produced pigmeat was safe he could not give a similar assurance as far as some EU imports were concerned.

Recent improvements in pigmeat prices throughout much of the EU has helped to stem the flow of imports which were undercutting the domestic market.

According to meat traders this has also opened the door to export opportunities to other EU countries such as France where prices have edged ahead.

Better EU prices are reflected in the latest UK AESA for the week ending 3 July which is holding firm at 85.79p/kg deadweight.

Weaner prices have also maintained their recent position and the UK 30kg ex farm average is now £25.41 compared with £17.84 at the start of the year.

However, as producers are quick to point out these returns will still generate losses of £7 for every pig leaving the farm gate. Unless they see a significant revival the autumn many more will be forced out of an industry already in serious decline and crying out for new investment.