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French Pig Industry Body Faces Constitutional Row

by 5m Editor
1 July 2008, at 2:10pm

FRANCE - France's largest pig co-operative Cooperl is preparing to merge with smaller co-operative ARCA. The result will be France's largest pig business, producing 7million pigs/year.

The plan has been talked about for some months, but recent rises in structural costs have helped to accelerate the schedule, which may even see a merger this year. Both Cooperl and ARCA, however, share a less talked-about side to their industry profile.

Last year, as farms came under increasing pressure from rising costs, Cooperl stopped collecting the pig producer levy that would normally go to the national industry body INAPORC. The co-op accused INAPORC of over-lavish spending, particularly on prospecting export markets.

While Cooperl complied with a decision taken at a hearing late last year and settled the outstanding balance for calendar year 2007, it remains recalcitrant over collecting 2008 pig producer levies for INAPORC. From the local hearing at Saint Brieuc to a judgement given at the Breton capital, Rennes, Cooperl has challenged decisions made against it, with a final hearing in Paris during May.

The outcome from Paris was a request to Rennes for a review of the judgement passed earlier this summer. This is expected to be completed by October: if the decision goes against Cooperl, the sum involved may be recovered centrally from the co-operative rather than the individual producers concerned.

Meanwhile, ARCA is still collecting the levies from producers, but has been witholding them from INAPORC for some months now. The trade body is holding an extraordinary general meeting to discuss the constitutional aspects of this disagreement in July, but refused to make the date public.

The debate turns on third country export markets, once the domain of an exclusive exporters' 'club'.

"Exports to South Korea are about 30,000 tonnes a year now, worth 70 million euros," INAPORC general secretary Didier Delzescaux told The PigSite. "But where there used to be four companies doing the business, now there are 10."

During the past year, INAPORC has been promoting the French industry in Moscow, Korea and China. "Cooperl was very happy to write new business in Shanghai," observes Delzescaux.

If there is a downside to the export trade in frozen primals for Delzescaux, it is the way that commodities take precedence over added value products. "France has over 400 charcuterie products, we kill the equivalent of two million tonnes carcase equivalent but we only export 50,000 tonnes of charcuterie in a year. It's nothing."

5m Editor