EUROPEAN agriculture minister Dacian Ciolos is proposing to help stabilise pigmeat prices by paying processors to build up stocks in their freezers while they look for markets outside the EU.
The announcement was welcomed by farmers’ organisations. But the pig industry is still waiting for details of how much is on offer and what the conditions are for claiming it.
British pig farmers’ spokesman Stewart Houston said the intervention had been tried before and proved effective up to a point, by mopping up spare capacity in the big exporting countries, like Denmark and Holland.
But he said: “It won’t solve the crisis on its own.”
Mr Ciolos said much the same, before going into a series of meetings to get approval for his proposal this week.
He said: “In addition to these short-term measures, we must look at the sector in the medium term. I have called for an enlarged consultative committee to meet at regular intervals to consider key problems.”
The trigger for his intervention was a big drop in demand for pork in Germany, following the recent scare over feed contaminated by dioxins because it included by-products of biofuel manufacture. Essex processor Cheale Meats this week advised its suppliers to hold on to their old sows until the market recovered.
Cheale Meats slaughters and markets most of the UK’s sow herd and usually exports large quantities of the meat to Germany.
But Paul Cheale, a director of the company, said the dioxin crisis had resulted in a big fall in pork consumption generally, in Germany, and a significant knock-on effect on the price of sow meat across Europe.
The German incident also affected the UK because some of the same kind of feed went to egg farms and some of the eggs were imported by British bakers.
During a European Parliament debate on the affair, UKIP MEP Stuart Agnew blamed it on the EU’s “obsession with biofuels”.
He told other MEPs that the UK’s ‘Lion Code’ egg assurance scheme would have made the egg problem highly unlikely, because it covered feed standards, “and British producers will be delighted to supply you”.
n Asda this week announced a small extra payment to its contracted pig farmers towards the soaring cost of feed. The farmers are hoping for other retailers to follow suit.