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  Chapter 13   Chapter 14   Chapter 15   Chapter 16   Chapter 17   Chapter 18

Over the coming months these pages will build into a history of why NPA was founded.
CHAPTER 2

HOW IT ALL BEGAN (AS REPORTED IN THE MEDIA AT THE TIME)

NPA was formed as the British pig industry's single voice in a turbulent era of market failure, rampant disease, retailer duplicity, political infamy and a dysfunctional levy-board. It had a faltering first year, but these days a top-flight management team is in place and NPA continues to change the face of the British pig industry for the better.

 (Click images for a high-resolution view of full article)
Pig farmers protest over cheap imports

BBC, August 12, 1998

Thousands of pig farmers from across Britain are massing at a port in protest against cheap imports of meat which they say are destroying their livelihood.

The mass protest planned for Immingham Docks, on the south bank of the Humber estuary, follows lobbying of Parliament and complaints that supermarket pressure is forcing meat producers out of business.

Pig farming leaders say that they are losing out against cheap imports because they ensure high standards of welfare for their animals and will only use certain types of feed.

The National Farmers' Union has estimated that the average pig farmer is losing between £8 and £10 per animal because prices offered by the supermarkets do not meet rearing costs.

British pig farmers have also invested heavily in recent years on better housing for their animals in anticipation of impending European Commission regulations, the NFU says. But the strong pound coupled with lower prices is leaving the industry "battered from all sides", says the union.

The farmers argue that they are a special case in agriculture because they have never sought public subsidy for their previously successful sector.

Wednesday's protest at Immingham, one of the country's largest volume ports, will be led by the farmers from Yorkshire and Humberside. They will be joined by colleagues from around the country to protest at cheap pigmeat coming through the port from Holland and Denmark.

Graham England, chairman of the NFU's Pig Committee, said: "British pig farmers are facing some of the most difficult times in living memory. They are being hit by the effects of high interest rates and the strong pound making their product uncompetitive with imported pigmeat, while pushing down prices domestically."
Parliamentary debate".

Last month the NFU led a delegation to lobby ministers over the issue, arguing that their 100,000 tonnes of annual exports are important to the British economy. Agriculture minister Elliot Morley welcomed the high standards of British pig farming and called on retailers to examine their buying policies.

NFU President Ben Gill said: "We have real fears that if the suffering being felt by this sector is not alleviated then British pig meat will no longer be around to form our world famous British bangers and mash."

November 1998

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November 1998

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November 1998

DECOMMISSIONING
THE MLC

'The compulsory levy should be scrapped'

Yorkshire Post comment
November 1998

The pig farmers are rightly quizzical about the role of the Meat and Livestock Commission [now called the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board] in promoting their produce. The MLC is one of numerous quangos established in the decades following the Second World War to look after the "interests" of the farming industry.

Like the Common Agricultural Policy, it has long since served its purpose and has now become a bureaucratic obstacle to farmers taking responsibility for marketing their own industry.

If farmers want to form a trade organisation they should, of course, be free to do so. But the MLC is funded by a mandatory levy on every cow, pig and sheep brought to the slaughterhouse, and a laughingly-named "voluntary levy" which no farmer can refuse to pay.

As with most quangos, the MLC is much too close in its thinking, culture and instincts to the government departments which spawned it four decades ago.

On almost every issue affecting the promotion of farming, the industry has been outwitted by its quicker and more imaginative opponents in the consumer, animal welfare and green lobbies.

The hapless pig farmer had to come close to financial ruin before a campaign promoting British pork was launched. And even then, there is little evidence in the High Street of the £9m the MLC has taken from pig farmers' pockets.

Britain's pig farmers have a world class product: they should be free to promote it however they want.

The compulsory levy should be scrapped, the MLC decommissioned, and farmers liberated to market their products as any other industry does — with their own inventiveness and flair.



Thursday nights

Ferrybridge

'I remember spending an inordinate amount of time on Monday nights faxing one by one all the people on my BPISG list — around 300 — about the plans for our Thursday night activities, blockading supermarket distribution depots' — Richard Longthorp OBE


You have
summed up
our plight
superbly

I am a member of the British Pig Support Group and just wanted to write to you to express our thanks for all that you have done for us recently. I thought your headline "For pig farmers... not a sausage") was quite brilliant and I have photocopied it, along with your editorial comment ("Cold comfort farm"), and forwarded them to Nick Brown, agriculture minister. You have summed up our thoughts superbly and I just cannot thank you enough for all the other excellent articles you have written in recent months.

Robert Stavely
North Stainley Hall, Ripon
(Letter in the Yorkshire Post)


Thank you for
your support

We would like to thank you and your newspaper for the support you have shown the pig industry and British farmers in recent months.

From: D.M., W. and A. J. Cook. Londesborough, York
(Letter in the Yorkshire Post)


Houston and
Rowbottom
go before
Agriculture
select
committee

In December 1998 senior members of the British Pig Industry Support Group presented their case to the Agriculture select committee, explaining how British pork producers were being battered by cheap foreign imports and the indifference of many of the major supermarket chains. The slect committee, called to address the deepening crisis in the pork industry, also heard from the British Pig Association, the National Farmers Union and other industry groups. Farmers laid bare the facts in their battle for survival — see Chapter 3.

November 1998

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November 1998

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Supermarkets were immoral

'What stirred me up most were the slaughter pig contracts introduced around 1995-1996 which, as a result of pressure from the likes of Tesco, began to include a requirement for loose-housed sows. Their subsequent backsliding as sterling strengthened against the euro was immoral and fully justified our outrage and subsequent actions' — Ian Campbell MBE

November 1998

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November 1998

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November 1998

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November 1998

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November 1998

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November 1998

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November 1998

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November 1998

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December 1998

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December 1998

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You'd squeal too, if you
were losing this much

PicMalcolm Naylor says British farmers' present difficulties arise "from their own incompetence and greed". This is as far from the truth as you can possibly get. The entire livestock side of farming is in dire trouble; unless help is given quickly, thousands will go bankrupt. Some already have.

The pig farmer is in extreme trouble, losing at least £10 per pig produced and, if you are producing thousands, how long can you last? As for incompetence and greed, not a penny is received in subsidy and British pig farming is as efficient and humane as any in the world.

Let us suppose that Malcolm Naylor is a wage earner drawing £200 a week with commitments of £190 a week. What would he do if his wage suddenly dropped to £180? Then, a bit later, £150, and finally down to £120 a week and he was helpless to do anything about it? I'd say he would squeal as loud as any of the pigs our farmers are losing so much money on.

W. R. Jackson, Escrick, York,
(Letter in the Yorkshire Post)

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Yorkshire Post
December 9, 1998

Last night British Pig Industry Support Group spokesman Digby Scott said he welcomed any improvements Somerfield had made but its admission that it used misleading labelling made it the farmers' enemy, not friend. "Please don't tell us you care about the survival of British agriculture, Mr Simons, because it just won't wash," he said.

"As Somerfield indicate, they deliberately keep labelling vague. They don't label meat as British because clearly they want to be able to buy the cheapest meat on the day, regardless of where it comes from."

The decision not to source sausages and pigs to strict United Kingdom welfare requirements until there was "availability of such materials" was "the sort of sickening cop out we've come to detest".

"Good, wholesome British meat is available now, Mr Simons, if only you would be prepared to pay that little bit more for it. You could cut your handsome margins to cover the cost. Your customers would get better food and British pig farmers would be able to stay in business. Get off the fence, get your act together and start facing up to your responsibilities to your customers and to the communities you trade so profitably in."


December 1998

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Continued >>

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