Select Committee on Agriculture Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr Robert Persey (M 1)

  What size will the British pig industry be in 20 years time?

  Which thinking young person is going to choose the pig industry as a career?

  Who is going to commit capital to new buildings? (many of the present buildings were built 1960-80 when grants were available—these are approaching the end of their life)

  Who wants to pay to work seven days a week? (Apart from agriculture, nobody does).

  The cumulative effect of many factors, some listed below, have overloaded the pig industry with debt, destroyed morale and reduced the volumes over which to spread industry overheads. It is inevitable that the downward spiral will increase in speed, with imports, especially from Eastern Europe, replacing the British product. The industry has probably passed the point of no return to viability although the exact timing of the passing of that point can only be determined with hindsight.

Cumulative factors that have worked together to create this downward spiral

  BSE and swine fever in Europe encouraged over production which led to low prices.

  Strong pound/weak Euro allows Europeans to undercut British product.

  Unilateral imposition of higher welfare codes in UK put the UK producers at a disadvantage.

  BSE tax of £5.26 is unique to UK producers.

  Weak labelling regulations allows low welfare imports fed on cheap meat and bonemeal to masquerade as British.

  European producers get help by back door, low interest rates and grants, eg French farmers can build a slurry store and get grant for an irrigation lagoon.

  Swine Fever surveillance zones (see Annex). The British pig industry is expected to carry much of the cost; name another country where that would have happened?

  IPPC—will the Minister of Agriculture give an undertaking that the UK costs of implementation will not be any greater than Spain, Italy or Greece? Will they be imposed on the mega units being funded by the USA and being built in Eastern Europe? If the Minister is brave enough to give such an undertaking, what mechanism has he in mind to verify our European competitors?


  Having lost a large slice of British pig industry, the last thing that we need is a payment to remove another slice. Fewer pigs mean fewer abattoirs, less investment, less competitiveness, fewer feed mills, less competition, fewer livestock hauliers, fewer vets, less promotional levy and less funding for the MLC. The British pig industry will soon lose its critical mass and will be irrelevant in the market place.

  The Danes and the Dutch are taking advantage of their dominant position in the UK bacon market and are engaging in predatory pricing which is contrary to Sections 81 and 82 of the European Treaty. Will the Government raise this issue with DGV1 in Brussels?

    —  Does the UK Government want an intensive livestock industry in this country?

    —  Does it regard the countryside as the lungs of the cities with pig and poultry meat better imported than produced at home?

    —  Is the balance of payments relevant?

    —  Is the surplus of grain, produced in the UK with no outlet, relevant?

    —  Is the welfare and the production standards of the food that we eat relevant?

    —  Does this country want to control the food that it eats or is it happy to eat anything?

  I think that this Select Committee is too late, the damage has gone too far. If Britain wants to eat pig meat and poultry it will have to be imported from abroad and we shall have to shut our eyes and hope.

November 2000

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