Brown defends his actions as pig trade make legal threats

3 December 1999

Brown defends his actions as pig trade make legal threats

By Alistair Driver

ILL see you in court – that was farm minister, Nick Browns, message to the British Pig Industry Support Group and the National Pig Association this week in response to their efforts to take him to court for "discrimination against the pig industry".

The pig industry has shown strong support for the initiative and is close to agreeing a method of raising the estimated £100,000 needed for the action. Central to the case will be the governments failure to compensate producers for the £80m annual cost imposed on the industry from measures imposed in the wake of BSE – the so-called BSE tax.

But Mr Brown has made it clear he feels he has not neglected the industry and insisted there will be no money made available to compensate farmers for the BSE tax.

"What they want is a cash injection into the industry, but I cant do this," he told FW on Monday. He did not accept the NPAs argument that the money the industry wants is not to gain a competitive edge over competitors, but to redress a disadvantage.

"You can dress it up how you like – it will be a cash injection into the industry and the EU has very strict views about that. No member state is putting a cash injection into their pig industry," he said.

He further angered pig farmers by blaming the industrys current plight largely on the "extraordinary optimism which the industry showed back in 1996 when prices were very high".

He said this underpinned the current situation of a "substantially over-supplied EU market" and the loss of demand in large markets in Russia and eastern Europe.

"When prices are high you should cut production, when prices are low you should increase production, classic pig cycle. It takes a brave man to do it and they didnt. Prices were high and they increased production and the market became over-supplied," he said

The real issue, he added, is not the high costs imposed on the industry, but the need to get a premium price for UK pigmeat.

"The ministers comments are surprising to say the least," said BPISG spokesman Digby Scott." It was only a few weeks ago, at a meeting with pig industry leaders on Oct 5, that he recognised BSE measures had imposed a very heavy load on the UK pig industry and promised to try and help. I hope he will look upon the forthcoming legal action as something which might in fact give some power to his elbow in his dealings with Franz Fischler and Gordon Brown." &#42

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