Government support for pig industry falls short of hopes

Pig industry bosses reacted with disappointment to government plans to help the beleaguered pig industry and called for a more proactive approach.

Speaking at a breakfast organised by the National Pig Association this morning, Secretary of State Caroline Spelman assured industry officials that food security and regulation was one of the top priorities. She underlined initiatives to tackle unfairness in the supply chain and produce a government procurement service to buy to British standards, as well as confirming the government’s commitment to better labelling standards. “Honesty in labelling is something that we are working incredibly hard on,” she said.

Her call to “Hang on in there”, however, fell far short of industry hopes.

Stewart Houston, chairman of Bpex, said: “There’s a limit to what the government can do, because they cannot tell the retailers what to do. However, they do have influence with retail and can point out this kind of discrepancy to them both formally and informally.  It's part of a process. We want to hear the government proactively doing something about it. We need concrete policies to back it up.”

Barney Kay, MD of the National Pig Association, said: “The labelling should help, but I am slightly concerned that the minister said we’re going to have to tough it out, as half of our producers can’t tough it out.”

The government’s initiatives come at a time when the pig industry faces crisis. Hard-hitting research by Bpex, out today, reveals that UK pig producers lost £35m in the last 12 weeks to end January 2011. Meanwhile processors made an estimated £100m profits and retailers are understood to have made £192m in the same period.

The Bpex report coincides with a rally on Whitehall to highlight concerns in the industry. Four hundred pig farmers are descending on Westminster to raise awareness and petition the government.

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