Pigs Producers' Patience Wearing Thin

by 5m Editor
17 April 2008, at 12:03pm

SCOTLAND - This was the stark message as representatives of the Scottish pig industry gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs and the Environment Committee in Holyrood this morning.

NFU Scotland’s Pigs Committee Chairman Robin Traquair was part of the group called by the Committee to explain to MSPs what problems the industry is facing and how they might be rectified.

Pigs producers are now losing more than £20 pounds on every finished pig. This is the result of a combination of retail prices not compensating for rocketing feed and fuel prices and the effects of the 2007 Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak, which paralysed the Scottish pig industry for six weeks and caused a huge backlog of sow meat which was then difficult to sell.

Members of the Committee were keen to know how the Scottish Government could help to put things right. Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, who was also present at the Committee, said that FMD compensation could not be paid to pig farmers as it had been to sheep producers because the movement restrictions did not cause a welfare issue.

He did, however, promise to set up a ‘short-lived taskforce’ to consider ideas to mitigate pressure on the industry, including tackling Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) regulation costs, greater scope for local procurement and an audit of retailer purchase and labelling of meat imported from the EU. The Cabinet Secretary will write to the Committee within four weeks to update them of progress on this front.

Hoping for More

Speaking after the meeting, NFU Scotland’s Pigs Committee Chairman, Robin Traquair said that he had hoped for more from the Cabinet Secretary today in terms of commitment to practical assistance but I still believe that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

“It was always going to be hard to pin our hopes on getting any cash from the Scottish Government, but at least there could be scope from indirect measures, such as support for slurry storage under the NVZ rules. A retailer audit to prove that pigmeat labelled as British is, in fact British and not meat imported from the EU and processed on British soil could also go some way to restoring confidence," he added.

“In the meantime, we shall carry on haemorrhaging cash: my feed bills have doubled in the last few months and it now costs £5,000 more a month to feed pigs which will, ultimately lose me money when it comes to selling them. Pigs producers are very resilient and have been through periods of profit and loss before. The difference this time is that we simply cannot see where the next profit might come from and that will be the ultimate test in the future of the Scottish pig industry.”

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5m Editor