Illegal imports undermine UK pig market

By Peter Crichton

PRICES on the home market are still under pressure from imports, despite the reduced UK herd and falling slaughter numbers.

According to recent surveys, the amount of UK-produced ham and bacon on the shelves has fallen buy up to 33% over the past 5 months and has been replaced by imports.

British Pig Industry Support Group (BPISG) members claim many of these imports are produced from systems that are illegal in the UK. They believe misleading labelling is not making this clear to the consumer.

Although the Mark of Distinction logo was launched over 12 months ago, its take up and use by the major retailers has been patchy.

In the case of ham and bacon, apart from Sainsburys at 55% usage, all the other multiples have only shown the Mark on an average of 30% of these two key products.

UK producers have been further incensed by the contents of a recent report following a detailed survey of 150 Dutch pig farms carried out by the Netherlands veterinary inspection service.

This survey indicated that 80% of the farms in question failed to meet Dutch pig welfare standards — and 20% of the farmers questioned did not know what the regulations were.

The issue concerning UK farmers is that domestic retailers and caterers are still sourcing pigmeat from Holland, little of which they claim would match the tight UK specification.

With around 20% of imported bacon in the UK coming from Holland many near bankrupt UK producers are warning that they will step up militant protests and demonstrations against outlets who continue to use large volumes of Dutch and other suspect imports.

The stocking of Dutch bacon and ham also contravenes an undertaking made by the British Retail Consortium that all pigmeat on their members shelves would match British standards by January 1999.

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