EU Move Set to Help Pig Sector

SCOTLAND - The pig sector, though much reduced in numerical terms in Scotland over the past decade, has suffered as much as any other part of the livestock industry in recent months through vastly increased feed costs and restrictions on exports.
calendar icon 29 November 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

The bottom line is that there are now little more than 45,000 breeding sows in Scotland as compared with over 70,000 in 1996.

The quality of the product sold as "Specially Selected Scotch Pork" ranks high, especially since producers in Scotland and the rest of the UK operate to higher welfare standards than anywhere else in the EU, with the exception of Sweden. Sow stalls and tethers have been banned for many years, but this adds considerably to production costs.

However, the news from Brussels that the European Commission is almost certain later today to grant export subsidies to third countries has been welcomed. There will be no direct implication for the UK because the world animal health organisation in Paris has yet to grant freedom to export pig products outwith the EU following the foot-and-mouth crisis in Surrey. Exports on an international basis are likely to remain on hold until early 2008.

But if producers on mainland Europe and in the Republic of Ireland can resume trading with third countries, albeit with support from Brussels, there will be a knock-on effect for the UK.

Robin Traquair, the chairman of the NFU Scotland pigs committee, said: "This is good news. The pressure on the sector is unbelievable. The price was not great before this year, but spiralling feed costs have hammered margins, driving a lot of farmers to the point of quitting."

Some weeks ago, Brussels introduced "private storage aid," a measure which allowed processors to take pig meat off the market with a degree of financial assistance, and then put it up for sale at a later date when prices should have improved.

Traquair commented: "That was a good move and so too is this next step. Sure, it won't help us directly in the UK, but it could alleviate some of the pressure of the Continent and help us indirectly."

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