Select Committee on Agriculture Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Rattlerow Farms Ltd (M 10)

  In view of the inquiry you are having on 11 December on the Pig Industry we have prepared this brief submission which concentrates on the single issue of the UK only offering partial compensation for pigs restricted in Swine Fever surveillance areas.

  Rattlerow Farms Ltd is an international pig breeding company employing over 100 people in the UK. Approximately 25 per cent of our UK production have been affected by Swine Fever and to date has cost us over £1 million.

  We have a pig breeding company in Holland, RPD Nederlands, which was caught up in the Swine Fever outbreak over there. Exactly as in the UK we had farms located in surveillance areas. For animal welfare reasons pigs were routinely slaughtered and incinerated exactly as in the UK. However, all the pigs removed were paid for at full market value and for breeding stock that value was, in some cases, over £300 per pig. In the UK all we have received to date for similar pigs is £50/pig.

  The UK voted in favour of other member states receiving full compensation for surveillance area pigs but has failed to ensure this for UK farmers. Nick Brown has said he would not see the UK pig farmers disadvantaged but this is what he has done. He has ignored precedents set in other member states and failed to ensure a level playing field.

  Nick Brown also said Swine Fever was a "normal business risk", however to quote the UK's submission to the Commission concerning the fire at the Ballymoney processing plant (23 February 1999 para 18) "The UK does not accept that the sudden total inability of a producer to sell a product in his usual market at any price, owing to circumstances unrelated to the market situation and without any change in levels of consumer demand, coupled with the almost total inability to transport this product for sale at any price in other markets, due to restriction on animal movement, can be considered to fall with the parameters of entrepreneurial risk". Clearly from this the UK has been inconsistent in its treatment of pig farmers.

  The Animal Health Act 1982 clearly says compensation should be paid at the full market value. (Schedule 3) also (Schedules 17 and 18) says that it doesn't matter if actual infection was present. The legal basis for the minister not to pay full market value therefore seems rather thin.

  Other member states received up to 75 per cent of the cost of compensation from the EU. Full compensation would not have cost the UK anything if the balance were claimed from Europe.

  This submission only covers the issue of compensation however the consequential losses resulting from Swine Fever have been enormous and will take several years of good trading to recover.

  Unfortunately our confidence is severely undermined in this government's determination to ensure a level playing field. BSE tax and willingness to import pigmeat from illegal production systems has made the UK non-competitive and only encourages international companies like us to invest outside of the UK. It is very important that British farmers are treated fairly otherwise the UK pig industry will continue to decline.

1 December 2000

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