By Peter Crichton

ALTHOUGH any food scare can affect all sectors of an industry, UK pig producers have been quick to focus on the possible benefits to from the Belgian livestock crisis.

Ian Campbell, chairman of the East Anglian British Pig Industry Support Group (BPISG), has stated that this provides the UK pig industry with a golden opportunity to stress all the benefits of the British Pork “Mark of Distinction”.

He warns all food retailers, caterers, Government departments and consumers that if they continue to use imports they will continue to be exposed to risks similar to the major disaster faced by so many farmers, retailers and other pork users in Belgium.

UK abattoirs are anticipating a better demand for the home produced product and spot prices today are expected to rise despite of the UK AESA dropping on Wednesday by 0.54p to stand at 84.53p/kg.

Many other EU countries are now being sucked into the scandal which is reported to have originated in January when some Belgium feed compounders allowed their rations to be contaminated by dioxins which can cause cancer in humans.

Initial reports indicate that the problem has been traced to one animal fat processing plant in Belgium.

But the news did not break until early this week by which time the suspect rations had been widely fed.

Initially poultry rations were only thought to be affected but there is now evidence that pigs and cattle have also been fed on the corrupted product and this could lead to the withdrawal of a raft of dairy and other associated products.

Worse than this, these rations have been exported to farms in Holland, France, Germany and Spain.

Livestock from these and other countries may also be affected. The Dutch Government have sealed off 500 pig farms until their sources can be checked.

To back up the severity of the problem the UK Department of Health has issued a “Hazard Notice” to all retailers, caterers and other pork users.

They will have to verify that their products are dioxin-free. The UK Government has ordered the destruction of all Belgium food products identified at this stage with any dioxin linkage.

Early reports indicate that poultry meat is more likely to be contaminated than pork with some poultry meat samples tested showing up to 900 times above safe levels.

To date the only British retailer who has confirmed that its products are 100% dioxin free is Marks and Spencers, according to press reports.

The other large retailers are said to be checking all their branded pigmeat supplies. This will present a problem for many of the large multiples ñ Chris Ling of Tesco stated that they had no direct control over all the ingredients of their branded products.

Meat traders also acknowledge that as far as imports are concerned it may still be hard for all pigmeat sources to be fully traced. Belgium is known by some traders as the “re-labelling centre of Europe”.

With UK pig producers still facing losses of up to £15 for every pig sold, this latest development has raised hopes that the expensive UK farm assured system may at long last come to their rescue.

If spot pig quotes rise, as a result the UK AESA is expected to move upwards next week during the summer period when prices normally slide.

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