By Peter Crichton

FOR those pig farmers who can no longer sustain the financial pressures of staying in pigs, there are reports of yet another problem to be faced.

Due to the currency turmoil in Russia demand for heavy manufacturing and sow meat has slumped. This has been compounded by sharply increased slaughterings by cash strapped European producers.

As a result, not only have sow prices crashed to record lows with 30p/kg deadweight a common quote – about £35 per sow – but all the main sow slaughterers are reporting long lists as they struggle to cope with the extra numbers on offer.

August sow slaughterings stand at 32,000 head compared with 27,000 a year earlier, and none of the major sow abattoirs appear to be able to operate at a much greater capacity due to restricted chiller space and export slots.

With all these problems to face and low worldwide pigmeat prices very few of the major players in the industry can see any significant upturn unless the current British Pig Industry Support Group campaign to persuade the retailers and catering outlets to procure more UK pork is effective.

The news that the supermarket group Somerfield are the sponsors of the next Labour Party Conference has been seized upon by Digby Scott, a Support Group Member. He reports that Somerfield are one of the worst offenders when it comes to importing cheap foreign pigmeat which may have been produced in stall and tether systems and fed on meat and bone meal.

This has stimulated media coverage and speculation that pig farmers and welfare groups may seek to embarrass the conference by asking why they accept financial support from such a source.

This attack on supermarkets who sell imported pigmeat that may have been produced on farms that would be illegal in the UK has also been taken up by John Gummer MP.

Ten years ago he was Agriculture Minister when Sir Richard Bodys Bill to ban sow stalls was passed in the House of Commons and he is now challenging supermarkets who will still buy imported pigmeat not produced to higher UK standards.