Select Committee on Agriculture Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 6

Memorandum submitted by Mr Rod Tuck (M 7)

  My colleague and I have been involved in the Animal Feed Industry since we left school, some 37 years ago; in total we have 74 years' experience.

  Over that time we have seen numerous changes, from a fragmented industry of some 71,000 pig units totalling 700,000 sows across the UK, to today with some 14,000 units housing some 600,000. Until recently the only major change has been that this number of sows are now owned by fewer people. Within that number we have seen herd sizes increase tenfold with 40 per cent of the new population now in outside units with 80 per cent of the pork produced coming from 20 per cent of the Producers.

  More recently we have seen the total sow population decline more quickly and if not redressed could reduce pig numbers below the critical mass level needed to sustain a viable industry within this country.

  Why and what has accelerated this change?

    (a)  The changing of the animal welfare laws in this country, without ensuring that our major overseas competitors did likewise, thus making us uncompetitive at the supermarket meat counters.

    (b)  By inadequate food labelling laws, which does not allow the UK producer to be able to justify to the consumer the animal welfare reasons and food safety regulations, which make UK pork more expensive. The Swiss Government insists their packaging states, "this product was produced in systems that are illegal in Switzerland" giving the consumer the choice.

    (c)  Allows foreign carcasses to enter the UK and be processed and then the product leaves the plants stamped as a UK product confusing the consumer to thinking that all meat from all other countries is produced to the same high standards as in the UK.

    (d)  By pursuing an energy policy that again was out of balance with our overseas competitors has made us less competitive. It costs at least 2p/kg more to process a carcass in this country, due to higher energy costs, plus approximately 3p/kg extra to deliver the final article to the consumer.

    (e)  The over zealous interpretation of European Laws by Civil Servants and MAFF: I cite just two examples, there are many more:

      —  in the meat inspection area where the meat inspection cost is standard to every plant rather than in European where the charge is based on headage through the plant, the European system does not penalise the smaller abattoir or processing plant;

      —  the offal disposal levy, vet/meat inspection charges, extra feed charges due to meat and bone legislation which comes to a total recognised cost of £5.26 per pig imposed on every pig slaughtered since BSE problems began which none of our EU and overseas competitors have, puts the UK pig industry at a considerable financial disadvantage. When you consider BSE had nothing to do with the pig or pig industry, why do we as an industry get disadvantaged?

  The changes that have taken place in the UK pig industry over the last decade have been so great, that this last outbreak of CSF has really highlighted how out of touch and out of date both Government legislation and MAFF are. The laws both of the EU and the UK are not compatible with modern UK pig-keeping methods. The financial burden that has been placed on the UK pig producer and the supply industry to obey the laws of this land and Europe have been intolerable and have pushed people's patience and financial burdens beyond the bounds of reason. If there is another notifiable disease outbreak in this country we doubt if any livestock farmers will co-operate to the extent that they have done this time.

SWINE FEVER

  In our humble opinion as suppliers of Baby Pig Feeds predominately in East Anglia, thus suffering a virtual cash flow standstill which is damaging our business, the Government and MAFF have made some far-reaching decisions that have permanently damaged the UK Pig Industry and supply industries.

  The bad decisions were:

    (a)  every pig within a 3km radius of an outbreak should have been slaughtered and destroyed immediately, including pet pigs who should not be allowed to survive in a 3km or 1km killing zone. The Dutch found this out in their last outbreak, we did not learn from their experience;

    (b)  the legislation regarding pet pigs is very lax and should be reviewed, an easy solution would be to include them in the Dangerous Animal Act. This would ensure proper licensing and housing;

    (c)  all hot contacts should have been slaughtered and destroyed immediately. Again a lesson learned in Holland;

    (d)  full market value should have been paid to all pigs killed in the surveillance areas. This would have encouraged people to get the pigs killed and off farms rather than increase disease risk by keeping them;

    (e)  all feed and straw should be destroyed on affected farms and fully compensated for;

    (f)  the Meat Derogation Scheme should be in place ready to click into action at anytime in the future. This would have helped to maintain livestock values in the market place and got pigs off farms;

    (g)  a full consequential loss payment scheme should be in place for all businesses affected by notifiable diseases; and

    (h)  all wild pigs in the UK that are running wild should be culled for public health and safety reasons.

  The present system has relied on the pig farmers, the banks and the supply trade to finance and stand the financial losses because of UK and EU Government legislation and interpretation of the rules. Everyone has been paid in full except the farmers within the surveillance zones and their suppliers, which cannot encourage citizens to be law-abiding in the future.

  There is seemingly a total disregard in Whitehall for the need to safeguard safe food production in this country with people feeling that both the Government and MAFF want to export UK food production.


 
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