More pig producers will leave the industry, which is in danger of collapsing altogether, if confidence does not improve, NFU Scotland's Pigs Committee Chairman, Philip Sleigh has told MSPs.
Sleigh was giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Rural Affairs and the Environment Committee alongside other industry representatives including Gordon McKen, Managing Director of Scottish Pigs Producers Ltd. and Brian McGonagle, Managing Director of Vion Hall's.
The panel was succeeded by Stuart Ashworth of Quality Meat Scotland, Professor Christopher Wathes, Chairman of the Farm Animal Welfare Council and Gavin Dick of the Scottish Agricultural College.
The session was called by the Rural Affairs Committee on the back of the pig industry's continued plight, which has worsened since the Pig Industry Taskforce, which was established nearly a year ago to consider possible actions to help the industry, published its recommendations in August 08.
Out of the mire
Speaking after the session, NFU Scotland's Pigs Committee Chairman Sleigh said: “We are grateful to the Rural Affairs Committee for keeping this issue on their agenda and for allowing us another opportunity to explain our concerns about the long-term viability of the industry and how to help producers get out of the mire of regulation and price volatility.
“Sadly the window to implement the Taskforce's worthwhile recommendations has passed. Prices have improved to some degree, but this is largely due to the fact that the Sterling has fallen so starkly against the Euro. This improvement is also on the back of a ten-year financial low for pig producers, and many of Scotland's remaining producers are therefore planning to leave the industry in 2012, when the deadline for building costly additional slurry storage in compliance with Nitrates regulations arrives. This huge financial outlay, which will not make businesses more efficient, means many pig farmers will choose to stop production altogether.
Not too late
“It is not too late for politicians to alter the course of legislation which is currently being drafted in order to prevent the Scottish pig industry from collapsing. We urged the MSPs to encourage their Westminster counterparts to re-introduce capital allowances for new farm buildings, and to advocate that their colleagues in the European Parliament prevent re-drafted rules on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) from getting out of hand.
“Closer to home it is crucial that the review of the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) makes it easier for producers to access funding, including for building improvements, which would help pig units become more efficient.
“We learned at the meeting that the Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead, will appear before the Committee later this April in response to today's session and we shall take the opportunity, following consultation with NFU Scotland members, to reiterate our points, in a formal written document, to MSPs.”
• NFU Scotland