Pig prices to rise on back of sow stall ban - Houston

PIGMEAT prices could rise by more than 10 per cent as a result of the 2013 partial EU ban on sow stalls, according to National Pig Association director Stewart Houston.

Mr Houston said compliance with the ban across the EU would be achieved through a combination of producers converting to new systems and getting out of production altogether.

“It’s almost without doubt there is going to be a reduction in the number of pigs produced in the coming years in Europe and I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” Mr Houston said.

The NPA is compiling a report on the likely market impact of the ban, using information available from member states about expected levels of compliance. The report is due to b published next month. 

Mr Houston said early indications were that the percentage increase in price ‘could well be in double figures’.

But he said that would merely represent a more balanced market than has been experienced over the past few years, during which pigmeat products have been undervalued due to a ‘slight oversupply’.

The sow stall ban would help ‘rectify the situation’, enabling producers to ‘make some profit and reinvest in their businesses’, he said.

Mr Houston pointed to the impact the EU laying hen battery cage ban is having on the market as an indicator of what could happen next year in the pig sector, albeit not on the same scale.

EU egg prices have soared in the first few months of this year on the back of shortages caused by producers going out of businesses to avoid falling foul of the battery cage ban. This has been driven in part by the tough stance taken by the Commission, which is threatening member states that have not yet complied with heavy fines if they do not force their producers to take the necessary actions.

The European Commission is making a better fist of implementing the sow stall ban than it did with the battery cage ban and is pushing member states to comply harder and earlier than it did last year.

The likelihood remains, however, that millions of breeding sows across Europe will still be confined in outlawed stalls when that ‘partial’ ban on the system (partial because it does not apply to the first four weeks after service) comes in on January 1, 2013.

Data unveiled by the European Commission in Brussels this week  shows:  

·       Three member states have already complied – the UK (in 1999), Sweden and Luxembourg.

·       Nine say they will be able to comply in time - Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovenia.

·       Seven have said they will be ‘at least 90 per cent compliant’.

·       Five will have 70-89 per cent compliance. 

·       Three have no provisions to comply by the start date. They currently have between 28-60 per cent of their sows in compliant units.

Mr Houston said the southern member states were the biggest culprits. Some member states that have admitted they will not be fully compliant, such as Holland, are marking huge efforts to comply, as soon as possible next year. But others such as Portugal, Spain and Italy, are ‘not getting it’ and are making little effort to comply or even monitor the likely level of compliance within their industry. “They are operating on guesswork,” he said.

Farming Minister Jim Paice said the Commission is ‘better prepared’ than it was for the battery cage ban but that it was ‘quite clear’ there will be significant levels of non-compliance.

He said it was therefore vital that moves to prevent trade in illegally produced eggs and encourage food chain boycotts in response to the battery cage ban are repeated in the pig sector next year.  

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