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Pig Industry

Volume 530: debated on Thursday 30 June 2011

5. What recent discussions she has had with representatives of supermarket retail chains on the effects of pricing on the pig industry. (62878)

I discussed the supply chain and the competitiveness of all those involved at the review meeting of the pigmeat supply chain taskforce in February. The taskforce meeting included the major retailers and pigmeat processors and producers. However, for competition reasons, Ministers cannot discuss prices directly with retailers.

I thank the Minister for that answer. When will the supermarket ombudsman be in place, and will he have the power to ensure that supermarkets pay a fair price for British pork?

As the hon. Lady knows, the Government have published the draft Bill on the supermarket code adjudicator, and we hope that the real legislation will come forward very soon. The purpose of the adjudicator, as recommended by the Competition Commission, is to enforce the code, which has been in place since February 2010. He or she will not be able to intervene directly in prices or margins, but will intervene in issues to do with fair competition, and fair terms and conditions for suppliers.

Pig production standards and animal welfare standards in general are far higher in Britain than they are throughout most of the rest of the world, yet the consumer in the British supermarket has no way of knowing whether they are buying British bacon or pork or whether it is from somewhere completely different. How far have the EU discussions on allowing country of origin labelling progressed? We want to see a Union Jack on British pigmeat, so that we can buy it in the supermarket.

My hon. Friend is right. However, at the moment the Union Jack could appear on a product from a pig that was not reared in Britain, and that needs to be stopped. I can tell him that the whole meat industry has agreed a voluntary code on country of origin labelling, and we carried out a benchmarking exercise survey in April, against which we can judge progress. The EU food information regulations are making fast progress. It will be a little while yet, but we believe that within them there will be mandatory country of origin labelling for fresh meat.