09 June 1999
Ulster pig farmers win state aid
By FWi staff
THE European Commission has backed a government proposal to pay state aid to farmers in Northern Ireland under the Pig Welfare Slaughter Compensation Scheme.
Ulster pig producers will receive compensation for 15,571 overweight pigs slaughtered under the scheme at a rate equivalent to about 30 per head.
A commission statement acknowledged that a serious backlog of pigs had occurred in the province since a fire at a major pig-processing facility in June last year.
The fire had given rise to severe economic difficulties for the producers as well as animal welfare problems, said the statement.
Earlier this year, the Commission informed the United Kingdom that it would not object to the payment of 15 in aid per pig to cover slaughtering and rendering costs.
But it had previously considered the payment of compensation to be a pure operating aid and therefore prohibited in the agricultural sector.
UK government officials, however, successfully argued that paying compensation was a one-off measure necessary to clear the market of surplus pigs.
Without compensation, it would have been impossible to secure the co-operation of producers needed to removal the excess numbers of overweight pigs.
The decision to pay compensation was taken only after alternative measures involving no payment of compensation had failed, the officials said.
The commission decided that the aid would not adversely affecting trading conditions in Northern Ireland to an extent contrary to the common interest.