Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the National Pig Association (M17)
NPA COMMENTS ON EVIDENCE SUPPLIED BY RT HON
JOYCE QUIN MP TO THE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE ON 11 DECEMBER 2000
The assertion that the UK Government's response
to the handling of this disease outbreak was "broadly of
the same magnitude and level as that of other member states"
is a cause of dispute in the key area of compensation for pigs
locked up in restriction zones.
Research into this issue is unable to support
the contention that "localised" outbreaks in other Member
States, equivalent to the one experienced in East Anglia, did
not receive full compensation (see Annex A) and it is quite clear
that the UK Government consistently voted in Europe to support
the Exceptional Market Support Measures that yielded full market
value in these cases; the Minister will perhaps confirm this after
she has taken a further look at the evidence.
It is believed that the concept of the East
Anglian outbreak as a small, localised affair took root at the
end of August when MAFF veterinary confidence was high that the
disease was restricted to five units. The consequent slaughter
of some 250,000 pigs changed reality about the size of outbreak
but not the terminology. The decision not to approach the EU for
funding support was a practical one made by the Minister on the
advice, and in any event, should not have affected the decision
by the UK Government on payment for pigs within the restricted
In the context of market disruption, the decline
in January pig prices should be noted. CSF caused the complete
loss of pigmeat exports to countries outside Europe both during
the outbreak and subsequently. Malton Foods, a subsidiary of Uniq,
specifically refer to CSF as a factor in their poor financial
Maintenance by the Minister that the "Animal
Welfare Disposal Scheme" was solely a mechanism for dealing
with animal welfare is undermined by the acceptance, on advice
from the CVO, that the build up of pigs on-farm was impacting
on CSF control measures thus bringing the problem within the remit
of the Animal Health Act 1981.
The NPA will fully co-operate in the review
of the CSF outbreak.
Many mistakes were made in the administration
of the control and eradication measures in the early days causing
considerable anguish and anger amongst the farming community,
but it is accepted that at all times MAFF sought to learn from
these, and consulted fully with ourselves on how to improve matters.
We believe this Committee should permit the review to address
these, and to report on how they can be avoided in future instances
where MAFF have to handle notifiable disease outbreaks.
This particular outbreak was limited in spread
by the response of pig procedures in observing the movement restrictions
imposed, despite the severe financial price their individual business
have incurred. The Committee may well feel that Government took
a substantial risk in the control measures by under-funding compensation
arrangements, thus forcing producers to choose between gross overcrowding
and bankruptcy, or the illegal movement of pigs and consequent
spread of disease.
The NPA maintain that individual procedures
in East Anglia have been made to pay a very high price for the
maintenance of pig health in both the UK and Europe; this is neither
reasonable nor equitable and if repeated, few producers would
react in the same responsible way they did on this occasion.
The use of the PIRS was a consequence of industry
pressure for financial assistance in the wake of legislative cost
to producers of national measures to tackle food safety; the £5.26
The NPA were persuaded that this route to assist
producers was the only "State Aid" available that would
meet EU approval, even though it was likely to encourage further
reduction in the UK pig herd. The willingness of the NPA to work
with Government on this Restructuring Scheme should be seen in
the light that, "it was the only game in town".
Certain key elements in the eligibility of producers
to apply for the "Outgoer Aid" are not consistent with
the aid offered to certain producers in Holland and will prohibit
the uptake for the Scheme from producers who have "downsized"
their involvement in pig production. The NPA have challenged the
position that pig producers have to cease all pig production if
they apply for "Outgoer Aid" on one of their units,
since it is not consistent with the concept of restructuring where
an inefficient part of a business is terminated. The question
we ask is why this component is stated as a requirement when it
clearly does not apply in Holland?
This ineligibility will mean many of the production
sites that ought to be encompassed within the 16 per cent figure
cannot apply, or producers will be encouraged to terminate active
units to the detriment of the critical mass required for a viable
UK pig industry. In her reply to 77, the Minister is clearly under
a misapprehension on this issue.
Regarding Q 78, the Minister expresses her disappointment
that the EU have introduced a size restriction which will impact
on the ability of some pig businesses to access the Restructuring
Aid available. The Minister makes the assumption that only 5 per
of producers will be affected in this way but the NPA doubts this
and would go further to say it is totally inconsistent with the
concept of an industry trying to regain competitiveness, to limit
the aid to smaller producers, except where the larger and more
efficient producers agree to reduce their capacity by 16 per cent.
In the case of the larger pig finishers where he has no sow capacity
to reduce, it may completely preclude this category from securing
any assistance to restructure.
The Agriculture Committee may wish to keep a
careful eye on the eventual percentage of active pig producers
who apply for the Pig Industry Restructuring Scheme before making
a judgement on the success the Scheme has in breathing fresh life
into a severely damaged industry.
Ian W Campbell
12 January 2001
1 5 per cent of producers may account for 50 per cent
of the UK national herd. Back