Select Committee on Agriculture Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by the National Pig Association (M17)



  The assertion that the UK Government's response to the handling of this disease outbreak was "broadly of the same magnitude and level as that of other member states" is a cause of dispute in the key area of compensation for pigs locked up in restriction zones.

  Research into this issue is unable to support the contention that "localised" outbreaks in other Member States, equivalent to the one experienced in East Anglia, did not receive full compensation (see Annex A) and it is quite clear that the UK Government consistently voted in Europe to support the Exceptional Market Support Measures that yielded full market value in these cases; the Minister will perhaps confirm this after she has taken a further look at the evidence.

  It is believed that the concept of the East Anglian outbreak as a small, localised affair took root at the end of August when MAFF veterinary confidence was high that the disease was restricted to five units. The consequent slaughter of some 250,000 pigs changed reality about the size of outbreak but not the terminology. The decision not to approach the EU for funding support was a practical one made by the Minister on the advice, and in any event, should not have affected the decision by the UK Government on payment for pigs within the restricted areas.

  In the context of market disruption, the decline in January pig prices should be noted. CSF caused the complete loss of pigmeat exports to countries outside Europe both during the outbreak and subsequently. Malton Foods, a subsidiary of Uniq, specifically refer to CSF as a factor in their poor financial performance.


  Maintenance by the Minister that the "Animal Welfare Disposal Scheme" was solely a mechanism for dealing with animal welfare is undermined by the acceptance, on advice from the CVO, that the build up of pigs on-farm was impacting on CSF control measures thus bringing the problem within the remit of the Animal Health Act 1981.

  The NPA will fully co-operate in the review of the CSF outbreak.

  Many mistakes were made in the administration of the control and eradication measures in the early days causing considerable anguish and anger amongst the farming community, but it is accepted that at all times MAFF sought to learn from these, and consulted fully with ourselves on how to improve matters. We believe this Committee should permit the review to address these, and to report on how they can be avoided in future instances where MAFF have to handle notifiable disease outbreaks.

  This particular outbreak was limited in spread by the response of pig procedures in observing the movement restrictions imposed, despite the severe financial price their individual business have incurred. The Committee may well feel that Government took a substantial risk in the control measures by under-funding compensation arrangements, thus forcing producers to choose between gross overcrowding and bankruptcy, or the illegal movement of pigs and consequent spread of disease.

  The NPA maintain that individual procedures in East Anglia have been made to pay a very high price for the maintenance of pig health in both the UK and Europe; this is neither reasonable nor equitable and if repeated, few producers would react in the same responsible way they did on this occasion.


  The use of the PIRS was a consequence of industry pressure for financial assistance in the wake of legislative cost to producers of national measures to tackle food safety; the £5.26 "BSE tax".

  The NPA were persuaded that this route to assist producers was the only "State Aid" available that would meet EU approval, even though it was likely to encourage further reduction in the UK pig herd. The willingness of the NPA to work with Government on this Restructuring Scheme should be seen in the light that, "it was the only game in town".


  Certain key elements in the eligibility of producers to apply for the "Outgoer Aid" are not consistent with the aid offered to certain producers in Holland and will prohibit the uptake for the Scheme from producers who have "downsized" their involvement in pig production. The NPA have challenged the position that pig producers have to cease all pig production if they apply for "Outgoer Aid" on one of their units, since it is not consistent with the concept of restructuring where an inefficient part of a business is terminated. The question we ask is why this component is stated as a requirement when it clearly does not apply in Holland?

  This ineligibility will mean many of the production sites that ought to be encompassed within the 16 per cent figure cannot apply, or producers will be encouraged to terminate active units to the detriment of the critical mass required for a viable UK pig industry. In her reply to 77, the Minister is clearly under a misapprehension on this issue.


  Regarding Q 78, the Minister expresses her disappointment that the EU have introduced a size restriction which will impact on the ability of some pig businesses to access the Restructuring Aid available. The Minister makes the assumption that only 5 per cent[1] of producers will be affected in this way but the NPA doubts this and would go further to say it is totally inconsistent with the concept of an industry trying to regain competitiveness, to limit the aid to smaller producers, except where the larger and more efficient producers agree to reduce their capacity by 16 per cent. In the case of the larger pig finishers where he has no sow capacity to reduce, it may completely preclude this category from securing any assistance to restructure.

  The Agriculture Committee may wish to keep a careful eye on the eventual percentage of active pig producers who apply for the Pig Industry Restructuring Scheme before making a judgement on the success the Scheme has in breathing fresh life into a severely damaged industry.

Ian W Campbell

12 January 2001

1   5 per cent of producers may account for 50 per cent of the UK national herd. Back

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