16 September 1998
Welcome for Brussels pigmeat storage decision

By Philip Clarke

PIG industry leaders and slaughterers have welcomed the announcement of financial aid to keep pigmeat off the over-supplied European market.

The European Union yesterday announced that aid to private storage will be available from 28 September. Pigmeat stored for four, five, and six months will then be exported outside the EU.

Slaughterers anticipate a wide uptake of the scheme across the EU. Mark Adams of Lincs-based George Adams and Sons described the aid as a very useful subsidy.

“The rates look quite attractive, though the problem will be finding sufficient export markets outside the EU,” he said.

The NFU described the announcement as an offer of vital support to the collapsing pigmeat market. Many UK farmers are losing £30 on each pig they sell since prices collapsed earlier this year.

But there is widespread dismay that, so far, the EU commission has turned a blind eye to France, where last week the government announced a comprehensive programme of national aids.

Aimed at new entrants and family farms who have recently invested, the STABIPORC programme offers cash advances, worth Ff50 (£5) a head for the first 750 pigs, and Ff30 (£3) a head for the next 750 pigs. The maximum payment is Ff60,000 (£6000) a producer.

The scheme will be funded to the tune of Ff348 (£35m) from the banks and Ff72m (£7m) from meat trade body, OFIVAL. Interest will be charged at “attractive rates”, according to French farm minister, Louis le Pensec.

French pig producers will also benefit from the postponement of national insurance charges, a Ff70m (£7m) fund to cover bank interest and Ff30m (£3m) in grants for new entrants. A crisis centre is being opened to deal with applications.

The package is being introduced, despite the fact the Commission declared STABIPORC illegal in 1994.

“The whole pig sector is in a desperate situation,” said NFU pig chairman, Graham England. “But we just cant have a single member state treating its farmers differently to everyone else.

“The trouble is, even though the STABIPORC loans are refundable, last time it took two to three years to agree this, by which time producers were back in profit.”