State aid packages for pig men?

By Peter Crichton

SIGNS are emerging that selective aid payments could be in the pipeline for some producer countries as a result of the EU-wide pig price crisis.

However, what UK farmers want to know is how much, if any, of the aid will come their way.

The National Pig Association has been quick to point out that some Irish, Dutch and French pig producers are all in line for a handout.

In Ireland, this will take the form of state aid to producers in three border counties who were hit by losses arising out of the June 1998 fire in a major processing plant.

Belgian farmers have received a second tranche of state aid following the dioxin crisis and the French agricultural minister is asking for a further 170million Francs to help its hard pig and poultry sector.

UK pig farmers claim that they too are entitled to assistance towards the reported 5.26/pig BSE “tax”, which is their extra cost of using non-meat-and-bonemeal feed, offal removal charges and other deductions.

With forecasts of a cut in production of UK pigmeat of about 20% over the next 12 months imports have already started to rise.

Latest statistics show that these were up by 20% in the first six months of 1999 and are still rising.

At the same time NPA members are complaining that these imports do not match UK welfare and food safety standards.

They are hoping for strong support for the private members bill being sponsored by Stephen OBrien MP on the labelling issue.

Trading standards officers are also being alerted by NPA members where they feel that there are cases of misleading labelling.

Under current EU law the country of processing rather than origin can be shown on the label and a Suffolk ham may well be cured in Suffolk but grown in Holland.

  • Peter Crichton is a Suffolk-based pig farmer offering independent valuation and consultancy services to the UK pig industry

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