Government quizzed on ‘pig industry decline’

The Government has been questioned on what action it was taking to tackle the causes of the “long-term decline of the British pig industry”.

In a debate in the House of Lords, cross-bencher and farmer Lord Palmer, who tabled the session, called for industry, the Government and the rest of the supply chain to work together to deliver Defra recommendations.

The price that is paid to farmers, according to Defra, should properly reflect production costs. Labels should also be made clearer to show the country of origin.

Lord Palmer said: “Between 1997 and 2007, the size of the UK pig herd fell by 40%. For every 10 pigs that we had in 1999, there are just six today.

"As well as having higher animal welfare standards than most of our competitors, British pig farmers have never received assistance from the Common Agricultural Policy.”

Speaking on behalf of the Government, Defra minister Lord Davies of Oldham, welcomed many of the points raised and claimed that pig farming rose substantially in 2008-09 and the expected income for the year ending February 2010 should continue that trend.

“I accept that the industry has been starved of funding for many years, during the periods of unprofitability. The investment going in now is much-needed.

"We recognise the points emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, in his opening remarks and supported by other noble Lords who have spoken in this debate that there are barriers to sustained profitability. The issue of the economic resilience of the industry must be addressed.”

Lord Davis also revealed that 95% of the bacon served in the House of Lords in the past year was sourced from domestic producers and the Refreshment Committee of the House of Lords was making sure that, as far as possible, it was close to 100% compliance.

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