Norfolk MP urges government to back pig sector

Farming minister David Heath has been told at a pig industry crisis meeting to insist that government only buys welfare-friendly pork.

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, who chaired a meeting to discuss the feed crisis with industry leaders at Westminster, said that government must do more to support the pig sector.

He also said that almost half the country's breeding herd had gone since the government unilaterally imposed the ban on sow stalls and tethers in 1999.

Mr Bacon, who has campaigned vociferously for the pig sector over many years, was concerned that many European competitors would be producing finished pigs from systems illegal in this country.

While producers voiced concerns about soaring feed prices, the uncertainty about compliance with new welfare was high on the agenda. Even Defra's own record when the ban on eggs from caged hens was introduced in January this year did not inspire confidence given that Britain still had a handful of non-compliant poultry units.

Mr Bacon said: 'This summit was useful in identifying specific areas of concern for the pig industry.

'Although major retailers have committed to only stocking pork products that comply with current and forthcoming EU regulations, there is growing concern that supermarkets are not looking hard enough at their supply chains for branded and non-branded pork products.

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'Supermarkets may soon be selling illegal pork products without even knowing it, which would render worthless any commitments they have made to consumers.'

Mr Bacon said that producers would have much more confidence if it could be sure that all pork products on the UK market from January 1 complied with new EU rules.