Page last updated at 13:21 GMT, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 14:21 UK

Task force plan for pig farmers

An audit of imported pork products has been called for by farmers

Scottish ministers are drawing up a rescue plan to help the country's pig industry, after fears business has been in sharp decline.

Pig farmers told MSPs that rising feed costs and lower quality imported pork was hitting the industry.

And they complained not to have been compensated for the 5m cost of dealing with the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said a task force would work with pig farmers to bring in support measures.

But he warned the Scottish Parliament's rural affairs committee the group would have to observe European state aid rules.

MSPs on the committee heard that while the price producers got for their pigs went up by 8% in the past year, the cost of grain rose 78%.

Farmers also claimed the industry - which supports 2,500 jobs - has been in decline for the past 10 years because cheap imports of foreign-produced meat, which they said did not meet UK welfare standards.

Mr Lochhead said the task force would look at new ideas to tackle the problems, including subsidies for farmers restructuring their business, grants for installing new slurry facilities, and an audit of imported pork to ensure it comes up to scratch.

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