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Pig Farming

Volume 525: debated on Thursday 17 March 2011

The Secretary of State and I discussed the difficulties faced by the pig industry with representatives of the National Pig Association and the British Pig Executive two weeks ago. I am very much aware of the high cost of feedstuffs and the problems that it is creating, causing serious losses for pig producers.

I am sure the Minister is aware that, according to the National Farmers Union, over the past three years pig producers have been losing £20 per pig, whereas at the same time retailers have still been making £100 profit per pig. May I call on him and the Department to take some action and put pressure on retailers to give our pig producers a fair price for their pigs?

I understand my hon. Friend’s point entirely. It is incumbent on any retailer that is concerned about ensuring that it can supply British pigmeat not just this year but in years to come to do what it can to ensure that our industry can continue through this difficult period. I am sure that prices will recover at some stage, but it is down to the retailers to ensure that their long-term supply chain interests come through into the practices they follow today.

Will the right hon. Gentleman outline what particular help he is giving pig farmers at a time when not only are feed prices very high but oil costs are rising? That is increasing the price of pig farming to breaking point.

As I am sure the hon. Lady is aware, pig farming has largely been outside any Government involvement for many years now. Pig farmers have not received any form of payment or subsidy for many decades, and that is the right way to go. I trust that she is not suggesting that we reverse that approach. She is quite right that energy prices are a major problem across all of agriculture. All that I can offer is the rural development programme, through which we can provide assistance for businesses that wish to invest.

Does my right hon. Friend think that customers of Tesco and other supermarkets would be surprised if they understood the disgusting animal welfare practices that those supermarkets support by importing meat produced under such poor animal welfare conditions? Is not the answer for British consumers to go to supermarkets such as Morrisons, which has a 100% British meat policy?

I am sure that consumers have heard what my hon. Friend says without me getting into an internecine war between retailers. What really matters is that the consumer is properly informed of the benefits of buying British pigmeat. That is why the Government are keen, as he is, on country of origin labelling.