Most of the attention in the latest U.K. foot-and-mouth outbreak has focused on cattle farmers — but the country’s pork producers feel the pressure also. Now, after Wednesday’s confirmation of another foot-and-mouth case, the pressure will increase.
Jeremy Barber is worried. In addition to having 3,000 breeding ewes on his Somerset farm, he has 450 breeding pedigree sows. He sells 15,000 breeding pigs a year to farmers in the UK, and is also involved in a business which sells a large amount of breeding stock to countries around the world.
Wednesday's confirmation of the new FMD case means he may not be able to take lambs and pigs to the abattoir and his breeding pigs cannot leave the farm. He said: "They will be growing, getting heavier and farm buildings will be getting clogged up."
Around 15 percent of the UK's pork is exported, mostly to the EU. Britain is also a world leader in exporting breeding pigs, and the ban could have a massive impact. "People like myself are snookered in terms of selling abroad," Mr Barber said. "At the moment, there is great doubt as to when (exports) would start again. It could be three months or three years, and it could cost us hundreds of thousands of pounds."
He said the past week had been a "nightmare" and the August FMD outbreak came at a very difficult time for pig farmers, with the price of wheat having doubled in the past six months. Now, with the latest FMD confirmation, things look even bleaker.
"Everyone's cost of production has gone up," he said. "Now, with foot-and-mouth, pig farming is in serious trouble in this country."
Cambridgeshire farmer John Millard has 8,000 pedigree pigs, and the bulk of his business last year was with China, Ukraine and the Philippines. "Specialist breeders will probably suffer most under the export ban," he said. "It took a long time to reopen the markets after the 2001 (FMD outbreak) and I had just received a draft proposal to export live animals to Ghana, which is now out the window."
In an average week, about 150,000 pigs in Great Britain would be sent to the abattoir. Mick Sloyan, chief executive of the British Pig Executive, explained why the movement ban has had such a big impact on pork producers. "A sow has 11 piglets every time she gives birth, twice a year. There are pigs moving through the system on a regular basis in large volumes and so if you suddenly close the outlet (to the abattoir), there is a build-up of numbers very quickly."
With even more animals unable to be transported off the farm, producers are forced to feed more pigs at already high feed costs. It is a formula for financial disaster and potential catastrophe for British pork producers.
Source: BBC News