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 You are in: Special Report: 1999: 09/99: Farming in crisis  
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Farming in crisis Tuesday, 21 September, 1999, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Pigs - overproduction and other factors
Intensive farming of pigs
Producing pigs in stalls is illegal in the UK, but not everywhere else
Over-production is often cited as one of the reasons for the current collapse in prices and that has certainly been the case with pigmeat.

Farming in crisis
An outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Taiwan in 1997 led Japan to seek other sources of supply.

With the Netherlands and Germany suffering from swine fever, UK pig producers stepped up production to take advantage.

They were able to do this because pigs can be reared in four to five months, unlike cattle or sheep.

However, the Dutch and the Taiwanese sorted out their problems much more quickly than expected and UK farmers were left with a lot of pigs and falling prices.

The market was expected to have recovered by 1999, but that has failed to happen - leaving pig farmers to suffer two bad years in succession.

Part of the reason has been the continuing high state of the pound, which has made it difficult for farmers to win export markets.

The recent rise in interest rates will not help as it will tend to keep sterling high.

Production costs rise

Other factors in this continuing malaise include the higher costs of production in the UK - many of which are out of the farmers' control.

The UK banned the use of stalls and tethers on 1 January 1999 because they were regarded as cruel to the pregnant sows.

The Meat and Livestock Commission estimates that this alone added 5-7 to the cost of rearing a pig.

The measure came into force six or seven years before it had to under European law. Some of the UK's competitors have not yet followed suit and as a result their farmers are using a less humane, but cheaper method of production.

Added factors

At the same time, the costs of feeding the animals in the UK have risen since the use of bone meal from cows was banned following the onset of BSE.

The MLC believes this has added a further 1 per animal to farmers' costs.

Another factor has been increased inspection charges at abattoirs following an EU directive.

These are more difficult to quantify and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is currently reviewing them.

On a related topic, the ministry announced recently that it would continue to pay the extra costs incurred by removing Specified Risk Material from slaughtered cattle and sheep - pigs are not at risk - in the continuing fight against BSE.

Links to more Farming in crisis stories are at the foot of the page.


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