By Peter Crichton

UK producer groups claim that the continuing stream of pig imports through Stranraer presents mainland pig producers with a multiple challenge.

The first is on the price front. Marketing groups are complaining that every extra pig on the home market is one less the nations abattoirs will have to compete for, at a time when supplies are starting to tighten.

According to trade sources, Malton alone is handling up to 2500 per week through its plans to replace local supplies.

Former British Pig Association chief executive Grenville Welsh hit out at these live imports and estimated that up to 8000 pigs a week were sourced from Ireland, with most originating in the Republic.

The second threat the British producers is on the disease front. Although Aujeskeys disease has now been eradicated throughout England, Wales and Scotland since it first flared up in 1983, it is still prevalent in the Irish Republic.

Fears that this killer disease, which cost the industry millions of pounds in the 1980s, could cross the Irish sea have been raised by claims of more lax inspection procedures throughout Ireland.

Current veterinary inspections and certification can be carried out by private vets employed by producers, rather than Agriculture Ministry inspectors.

This leaves the door open to sub-standard inspection arrangements, say concerned East Anglian and Northern pig producers.

The third area of concern lies on the welfare front. Pigs leaving the Irish farms of origin are faced with long trips to ports of embarkation and the usual delays at checking in, as well as the prospects of a rough four-hour sea crossing.

This will often be followed by a six- to eight-hour road trip to many of the abattoirs involved in this trade on the Eastern side of the country.

Responsible producers have pointed out that the stress of long journeys of this type does nothing to help the new welfare-friendly image the industry is trying to establish.