Weekly Overview: EU's Pig Industry in Decline; Progress on Ag Policy

28 January 2013, at 11:52pm

ANALYSIS - Pig meat output in the EU is forecast to fall by more than three per cent this year, following two previous years of contraction, according to a new report. One reason for the sharp decline is the sow stalls ban, for which many member states were ill prepared. The UK pig industry is putting food manufacturers, retailers and caterers under renewed pressure to ensure they are sourcing only legally-produced pork. There has been progress in the EU on the revised Common Agricultural Policy.

A new report on the prospects for EU agriculture until 2020 forecasts a contraction of 3.2 per cent in pig meat production in 2013 as a result of the mandatory welfare standards that came into force on 1 January and higher feed costs incurred due to the US drought.

Also in the EU, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have - at least, on the surface - given the go-ahead to a fairer, greener Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The Parliament's agriculture committee has agreed measures that will help to even out payments to farmers across the EU so that the poorer and newer member states are not receiving substantially less than the more established states.

MEPs have agreed to cap the amount of subsidies for individual farmers and reduce the large sums that have previously been handed out, so some of that money can be redistributed.

They have also approved new environmental rules focusing on crop diversification, maintaining permanent pasture and creating ecologically focused areas.

However, the MEPs are stridently standing by a 'no cuts' policy and have refused to see any reduction in the CAP budget.

"This is the moment of truth. The Agriculture Committee has said today how the new CAP should look. It should be more efficient, greener and able to respond to the enormous challenges ahead of us. Such ambitious goals entail higher costs. So any further cuts to the CAP budget are simply unacceptable," said committee chairman, Paolo De Castro.

In the UK, pig farmers are challenging food manufacturers, retailers and caterers to give a public commitment that they are not selling illegally-produced meat from farms that are flouting new European welfare legislation outlawing the prolonged confinement of sows in stalls.

The National Pig Association (NPA) has set up a web site Wall-of-Fame-and-Shame, which will list companies that have pledged to source imported pork products only from farms that are operating legally.

In the US, a farming body has welcomed the fact that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has introduced in the 113th Congress the same version of the Farm Bill that was passed by the Senate last session.

In Norway, influenza A (H1N1) pdm09 virus (swine flu virus) has been found in samples taken from pigs in herds in two regions of western and central Norway. The source of infection is thought to be the farm workers, who reported flu-like symptoms themselves before the pigs showed signs.

New research from CReSA in Spain takes us a step forward in the development of an effective vaccine against African Swine Fever.