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Scottish Pig Producers to Rally at Downing Street

Crisis has already claimed one of Scotland’s oldest pig herds

Scottish pig farmers are to join a national rally at Downing Street this week (Thursday, 3 March) to highlight to politicians, retailers and the public that rocketing costs and poor prices are putting the nation’s pig farmers out of business.

The crisis has already claimed one of Scotland’s oldest pig farms, with pig production on the 600-sow unit at Dourie, Port William in South West Scotland being wound down after more than 50 years in the business.  The owners, the Christie family, estimate that substantial money is now being lost on every pig sold from the farm and the closure of the unit will result in six redundancies.  Business partner, Gregor Christie, is a member of NFU Scotland’s Pigs Committee.

The rally at Downing Street has been organised to highlight that the nation’s pig industry is in danger of being hammered over the next 24 months as a result of rocketing feed costs in tandem with lower prices paid by supermarkets.  Despite being world leaders in terms of welfare-friendly production, the rally will warn all parties that if more farmers are forced to quit the industry, then consumers will be stuck with lower-welfare imported pork, sausages, bacon and ham.

NFU Scotland has contacted all major UK retailers recently asking for them to show greater commitment to home-produced product and to pay a fair price to cover the cost of production on farm.

NFU Scotland’s Vice President John Picken and Pigs Committee Chairman Phil Sleigh will join a dozen Scottish pig producers at Downing Street.   Ahead of the rally, Mr Picken said:

“The blunt facts are that, as a result of soaring feed costs, many pig farmers are making substantial losses on every pig they sell.  But the nation’s pig farmers have a great story to tell and one that we are sharing with politicians and the public.  We are also reminding retailers that we need and deserve better treatment from our supermarkets.

“This rally at Downing Street will tell all politicians from the Prime Minister to back-benchers that we are an industry that is in crisis.  We need continued political support if high welfare, environmentally-friendly pig production is to have a future here.  At the same time, we have been taking our positive message to the consumers, and banners promoting our pork and bacon are now to be found the length and breadth of the country. 

“Retailers remain the crucial link in the chain.  Recent examinations of supermarket shelves have shown that too many of our major retailers are too quick to stock shelves with cheap, imported pork and bacon when the opportunity arises.  We want to see them stand by buy local pig farmers and pay them a price that properly recognises the costs they face and the higher level of standards that we produce to he in Britain.”

NFU Scotland’s Pigs Committee Chairman, Philip Sleigh added:

“The sad closure of one of Scotland’s oldest pig units shows that we are an industry in genuine crisis and that production at a loss cannot continue.  Every pig unit supports economic activity and jobs – either directly on the farm or indirectly in other associated industries. 

“It is a sad and frustrating fact that in just over a decade, the number of sows kept in Scotland has fallen from more than 80,000 to just 46,000.  Over the same period, demand for pork and bacon in Britain has remained roughly the same but more than 50 percent is now supplied from overseas, often produced in systems that would not be permitted here.

“Every piggery that shuts its doors in Scotland calls into question whether we will retain the critical mass of pigs needed to keep our abattoirs stocked and supply consumers with pork under the Specially Selected Scotch label.  If politicians and retailers stand back and allow that to happen, it would be a travesty.” 

Notes to Editors

  • The ‘Pigs are Still Worth It’ rally is taking place at Downing Street, on Thursday, 3 March 2011 starting at 11.00am and finishing at 4.00pm.  A petition for the Prime Minister will be delivered to Downing Street during the rally.   Details on the rally can be found at: http://www.pigworld.co.uk/Pages/news.html#industry
  • NFU Scotland has sent a briefing to politicians ahead of the rally and the Union plans to meet with Scottish MPs on the day.  A copy of the briefing is available on request.
  • Figures from the National Pig Association suggest 80 percent of British pig farmers are currently losing money on every pig they sell and 70 percent say they will have to quit pigs in the next 24 months if they don’t get a better price from supermarkets.
  • Over 270 banners, including 12 in Scotland, have gone up around the country calling on consumers to support Scottish and British pork and bacon.
  • With regards to the winding down of pig production at Dourie Farm, Port William, Gregor Christie, a partner in G and R Farming, issued the following statement on Friday, 25 February.

“After more than 50 years of pig production at the Dourie farm, Port William, the Christie family has decided to wind down their pig farming enterprise operated by G&R Farming.

“Feed costs have dramatically increased in recent months and the price received for the pigs has failed to balance the books.  The economic circumstances have made the operation unsustainable and ceasing pig production is seen as the only viable option in the short term.  

“Every pig leaving the farm is doing so in debt.  Losses for the current financial year are estimated to run to an excess of £250,000 unless action is taken.  Six direct jobs will be affected by the closure of the 600-sow breeding unit.  Who knows how many more job losses could be seen as the effect of this business closure ripples through the rural community?

“Although this has been a terribly hard decision for the family, we have not completely washed their hands of pig farming.  Looking to the future, a Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) application has been submitted to try to secure funding to build a state-of-the-art facility for pig production.  This will enable us to produce animals more efficiently, give more control over costs, and allow us to produce pig meat in a world that is driven by cheap food and supermarket profits.  If funding is granted building works could begin as early as May 2011.  This will provide a boost to local trade and allow the firm to re-employ in the farming community.

“This has been a gut wrenching decision to make.  The loss of several loyal and long serving staff is heart breaking and a decision we have not taken lightly. However, we feel the decision is a necessary one in order to move forward at this uncertain time”.

G&R Farming is a partnership between Gregor Christie, Rory Christie and the Dourie Farming Co. Ltd.  G&R Farming has been operating since May 2010 although pigs have been kept at Dourie for more than 50 years.  For further information please call Gregor Christie on 01988 700 584 or 07765 886 186.  Alternatively Email:  gregor@douriefarming.co.uk

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 39/11


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