Optimism returns to Stoneleigh pig fair

By Peter Crichton

COMPARED with the last two years, the general feeling at the Pig & Poultry Fair on 10-11 May was of cautious optimism.

Standholders and trade sources all felt that this flagged up a better outlook for the UK industry as a whole.

This was reflected by more producer interest in the products on display, and a generally more positive attitude among buyers.

Probably the biggest talking points were the spread of killer diseases PDNS and PMWS; more rationalisation on the abattoir front; and reports of a lack of direction at the newly-formed NPA.

Producers at the show confirmed that outbreaks of PDNS and PMWS were spreading from East Anglia into the Midlands and the north and that this was probably linked to weaner movements in these regions.

Vets at the fair reported that it is still difficult for them to come up with a package of measures to help limit the spread of the viruses, and some felt that it may soon become widespread throughout the country.

This viruses are also hitting many EU herds, with Spain and Germany reported to be badly affected.

Talk also continues over the expected contraction in size of the UK pig slaughtering sector – expected to become worse as pig numbers fall.

The weekly kill is now below the 250,000 mark, and still dropping. Further imports, especially from Holland, are expected to fill the gap.

This could leave the country with just a few major players dominating the industry, leading to a lack of competition and a squeeze on the smaller operators with much higher unit costs.

Freestones, a medium-sized Nottinghamshire-based abattoir, has recently gone into liquidation; and the Baker family have announced that they have no plans to rebuild their fire damaged mid-Norfolk plant.

This pattern is expected to be repeated as supplies continue to tighten up.

There are signs of a split among National Pig Association members concerning the direction of the organisation.

The results of a wide-ranging survey sent to existing and potential members are expected to be announced in the next few days.

This will focus on the NPAs stance over the legal action being taken by the British Pig Industry Support Group against the Minister of Agriculture over his alleged lack of support for the pig industry during the BSE crisis.

Other NPA issues will also be addressed, including their level of support at grassroots level and future strategy.

There were, however, red faces all round when a group of pig farmers asked the Stoneleigh caterers where their bacon came from.

Packets labelled “Dutch” were produced.

Calls will be made to the RASE and Pig Farming magazine organisers to ensure that all future pigmeat catering supplies were sourced from the UK only.