By Peter Crichton
THE problems facing producers with pigs still “locked up” in zones continue to multiply.
Some of these farms have been closed down for over eight weeks, with the only chance to clear pigs under the heavily criticised Welfare Slaughter Scheme.
However, there have been no further reports of infected premises or dangerous contacts necessitating on-farm slaughtering for almost two weeks.
Due to producer pressure, MAFF is now believed to be looking more seriously at switching payments to a floating p/kg rate, rather than the fixed /head system currently operating within wide weight bands.
Last Friday (13 October) Junior Agriculture Minister Baroness Hayman became the first member of the Government to visit a pig unit in a surveillance zone to see for herself the problems caused under the existing regime.
She had a tour of an East Suffolk unit that has seen pig numbers soar from 6500 head to over 9000, with 100kg-plus pigs housed in straw-bale tents and other makeshift accommodation.
It is hoped that, following this visit, further pressure will be put on Agriculture Minister Nick Brown to approve a switch to a p/kg payment rate that more closely reflects full market value of pigs at all stages in the system.
William Hague also joined the fray with a flying visit to East Anglia where he met members of the industry on Tuesday (17 October). He promised to take the message he had received back to Westminster.