BRITAIN’S farmers could be undercut by cheap foreign imports if urgent action is not taken to make sure illegally produced pork does not flood the market, a Labour MP has claimed.
Mary Creagh, MP for Wakefield and the shadow Defra secretary, told the Yorkshire Post that an upcoming European Union-wide ban on the use of sow stalls for pigs is likely to be flouted by as many as 20 member states.
Such measures for keeping pigs were made illegal in Britain more than 20 years ago but the EU-wide ban does not take effect until the start of next year.
A similar EU ban on battery hen cages is being ignored by a large number of European countries with British farmers having to take action to make sure illegal eggs did not undercut them in the market place.
So far a voluntary agreement not to stock illegal eggs looks to have been successful, with all of the UK’s major supermarkets and food processors having signed up to the pledge.
However Ms Creagh said it was important to act now to ensure that the “fiasco” with the battery cage ban is not repeated with the sow-stall ban in January and, said that it was vital to make sure illegally produced pig meat was not found in the UK food supply chains after that date.
Speaking after a visit to Malton’s Elm Tree Farm, a supplier to Sainsbury’s, Ms Creagh told the Yorkshire Post: “Our food industries are well audited and highly regulated.
“We cannot control what is happening with other European Union member states but we can control what is happening in our own country. We really do need leadership on this issue.”
Currently, pigs reared in the UK for meat must meet UK animal welfare standards. These standards exceed those required in EU law but farming to these standards inevitably involves increased costs – something farmers fear may encourage retailers to look to continent where more cheaply produced pork can be sourced.
“British families have been enjoying home-reared pork produced to high welfare standards for over a decade,” said Ms Creagh.
“British shoppers want to be confident about where their meat comes from, and I hope that supermarkets will also take a lead in supporting home-reared pork in their products.”