09 June 1999
Unigate move would hit pigmen hard
by FWi staff
THE suggestion that Unigate is to process more foreign pigmeat would seriously damage domestic producers if it became a reality, farmers leaders have warned.
Unigate bosses indicated yesterday that they would cut costs by importing more pigs rather than buying from British farmers after revealing a 3.1% drop in profits.
John Worby, Unigates finance director refused to rule out importing more pigs after the groups pre-tax profits fell to 141.9m in the year to 31 March.
Increasing imports of cheaper foreign pigmeat would enable Unigate to cut costs at its Malton-based bacon factory, one of the countrys biggest pig processors.
But the move would also threaten to put many British pig farmers out of business, claimed the National Farmers Union (NFU) this morning.
This suggestion is particularly disappointing and one we hope will not become a reality, said NFU president Ben Gill.
Such a move by a major customer of Britains pig farmers would be very damaging.
Official statistics indicate that 85,000 Irish pigs entered the country last year, compared with just 5,000 in 1997.
Some British farmers claim that over 80% of the pigs imported from Ireland are killed at plants operated by Unigates Malton processing arm.
The farmers feel the Malton decision to process imported Irish pigs has undermined pig prices on the domestic market.
Mr Gill said the British pig industry was on the verge of disappearing despite producing pigmeat to some of the highest standards in the world.