UK pig trade deplores Dutch buying policy

9 May 1997

UK pig trade deplores Dutch buying policy

DUTCH pig buyers, desperate for weaners to replace their own depleted stocks, are buying from British farms for shipment back to Holland.

But the trade has been denounced by all sectors of the UK industry, even though the Dutch have been offering premium prices.

In a letter to suppliers, the Pig Industry Group warns strongly of the dangers of spreading classical swine fever if a regular trade with Holland is established. "Physical contact with pigs in other countries is most likely to occur through vehicles which have been on to pig units," says chairman David Whiteford. "A barrier must be maintained against the entry of classical swine fever."

This message has been reinforced by leading pig supplier, BOCM Pauls. "The information I am getting from our field staff is that the trade is going on quite widely – both for finishers and weaners," says pig market manager Terry Sugg. Whatever the financial incentive, he urges all suppliers to resist the temptation.

So far there have been about 150 cases of classical swine fever in Holland and most of the south is affected by movement restrictions. This has led to a 40% reduction in throughput at Dutch abattoirs, according to Sjoerd Dijkstra, head of information at PVE (equivalent to MLC).

As such, competition for stock is intense, with finished pig prices now at 149p/kg – up 54% on last year. And in the last three weeks alone, weaners have climbed from £34 to £45 a head for 23kg animals. This compares with a GB price of £36 a head for 30kg animals in the eastern counties.

This creates a strong price incentive for Dutch traders to source overseas, says Mr Dijkstra.

Tony Suckling of Ipswich-based pig marketing group, UPB Porcofram says he has received a large number of inquiries from Dutch and German traders looking for weaners – but turned them all down. "There is a profit to be made if that is your sole interest," he says. "But I cant see any long-term benefit to our industry, especially if it jeopardises existing contracts, quite apart from the health risk."

Anne-Marie Farmer of the British Pig Association says she is also aware of a number of farmers who have been involved in the trade. "Others have phoned, saying they have been approached and want to know the risks. We cannot tell them whether or not to get involved. "But we all know that classical swine fever is out of control on the Continent."n

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