Paice dodges action on beleaguered pig industry
Minister of Food and Agriculture Jim Paice failed to commit any government help to pig farmers yesterday, dodging Parliamentary calls to put pressure on retailers.
Although he said he was very much aware of the high cost of feedstuffs and the serious losses this has been causing the industry, he was reluctant to address problems in the supply chain, which have resulted in farmers losing £21 per pig while the retailers make a profit of £100 per pig, or offer any financial support.
Daniel Poulter MP called on the minister and department to put pressure on retailers to give pig producers a fair price for their pigs. However, the minister said it was incumbent on the retailers to do what they could to ensure the industry continues through a very difficult period.
“I am sure that prices will recover at some stage, but it’s down to the retailers to make sure that their long-term supply chain interests comes through in the practices they follow today,” he said.
When Richard Bacon MP pointed out that consumers would be shocked that some of the supermarkets still support “disgusting animal welfare practices” in buying imported meat produced under poor conditions, exhorting British consumers to go to supermarkets such as Morrisons, which have a policy of 100% British meat, Paice refused to be drawn into internecine warfare.
“What really matters is that the consumer is properly informed of the benefits of buying British pig meat and that is why we are really keen on the issue of country of origin labelling,” he said.
This comes two weeks after the Secretary of State Caroline Spelman assured industry officials that the government took their concerns seriously, telling them “We do need to get into the whole question of supply chain and the power of retail," adding, "We really have got to try to get to grips with it.”
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has already hit back at recent criticism. Speaking just before the Pig Rally, Andrew Opie, the BRC’s food director, said: “Retailers know some consumers prefer to buy British. They’re already doing what they need to to look after their supply chain and secure a sustainable UK pig industry, so they can sell the products people want to buy.
However, he added: “Supermarkets do not pay farmers directly for their pork. The direct relationship is between farmers and processors. Blaming retailers ignores the importance of the buying decisions made by manufacturers and caterers.”