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Crisis in Pig-Rearing

31 March 2011

It's not that there are too many producers, it's just that there's too many pigs! Here are our proposals for a new European pig-rearing policy:

The European pig sector will not find a way out of the present and continuing structural crisis if it does not succeed in managing supply at European level as well as reorienting the dominant modes of production. Failure at doing this would impede its ability to meet crucial challenges like providing jobs in the agricultural sector, caring for the environment and ensuring territorial balance.

For several years now, the price paid to producers for pork meat has remained below the production costs. As a consequence, the recent increase in feed prices has further exacerbated a situation of recurring structural crisis within the industry. This is particularly true for those producers who have become dependent on the investment/debt spiral.

For the European Coordination Via Campesina, the EU needs to address the structural roots of the crisis:

- The number of producers in the EU has been steadily decreasing all the while the number of pigs produced has risen continuously. As a consequence, the structural problem of overproduction is not caused by too many producers, but is linked to the fact that far too many pigs are being bred and that these pigs have increased in weight.

- The increase in grain prices is not reflected in the prices paid to producers by the industry. The retailing sector refuses to increase their prices. Effective transparency and true redistribution of margins is essential throughout the pig meat chain.

- The lack of supply management in connection with European consumption prevents any price stabilization.

- The extreme dependence on soybean imports, resulting from international agreements signed by the EU since 1962, has resulted in a fragile industry, that has no control over one of the main factors of its production costs. Moreover, this dependence makes the EU vulnerable to the import of GM soy.

- The endless process of industrialization of production, with pig farms growing larger and investments becoming increasingly heavy, is unwarranted given the needs of producers and consumers. That only serves the interests of upstream and downstream industry. It does not meet the challenges of environment, human health and animal welfare.

- This dominant production mode carries a hefty price tag at the cost of taxpayers:

 Pollution of water tables, sea cost and soils: the need for consumers to buy mineral water, increasing water treatment bills, green algae choking coastal environments, etc.

 Public subsidies spent on the treatment of pig-manure,

 Subsidies and incentives given to investment in bigger pig farms.

The false solutions offered by the agro industrial lobby

COPA and industry close their eyes and ears to any attempt to question this agro industrial logic. Instead, they advocate a destructive rush forward:

- Restructuring of production: as stated above, this contributes nothing to the resolution of the crisis. It only decreases costs carried by the upstream and downstream industry. This process of elimination of a large number of producers, is expensive for Europeans, in social terms but also by further destroying people's livelihoods in rural areas.

- Easing imports of GM soy: taking advantage of the issues carried by the pig-rearing sector, lobbyists are carrying out a frantic campaign to massively import GMOs to Europe. Instead, we have to raise the issue of fostering European plant protein production, without GMOs of course.

- Pig-manure treatment: the blind rush forward toward even bigger factory farms that purport to be "clean" simply fails to mention that many of the regions dealing with the problem don’t respect the EU nitrates directive and benefit from exemptions. If proper agronomic practices were followed, manure should be used to fertilize fields where feed is produced, instead of accumulating in regions near the harbours where soybeans are imported. This would - in the medium and long term - require a better distribution of pig-farms across the European territory.

- Income insurances: this is a wrong solution proposed by those who refuse supply management. Instead of preventing overproduction, it is proposed to compensate pig-farmer, with money from public funds and contributions from producers, for the loss of income due to unsustainably low prices for pork. It would be much better to act upstream and regulate supply.

Proposals by the European Coordination Via Campesina

- Supply management at European and national level. This is a necessary condition in order to achieve a fair income for producers : Prices paid for pork meat should cover the costs of a sustainable pig production. We must adjust the European production based on the true European demand. Initially , we need to take into account the current national production and control them at the level of each EU Member State (1). In the medium term - in order to comply with environmental and territorial challenges (see post 2013 CAP objectives of the European Commission), the production must be reoriented to ensure a better regional and environmental balance.

- Progressively restrict the size of pig-rearings by setting a maximum threshold of pigs per farm and per ha. In the short term, prohibit any expansion and any new pig-rearing beyond that threshold.

- Stop the concentration of production which reduces the number of producers instead of decreasing the number of pigs. Cooperatives and producer groups must stop forcing small-scale pig-farmers out of business. There's always a bigger bully: this endless process does not lead anywhere and only ends up destroying family farms, livelihoods and the entire fabric of rural society.

- Stop the aggressive stance of the EU on foreign markets (while the EU imports 75% of its plant proteins). Instead, achieve control of imports

- Reorient modes of production by linking production to land and local feed production rather than relying on the soils of South America: this is a prerequisite for halting the pollution of waters and coastlines and to restore long term fertility to European and South-American soils. The nitrates directive must not suffer any exemptions anymore. The industrial processing of pig-manure must no longer receive public funding.

- Castration of piglets: ECVC opposes the injection of Improvac-R, a product sold by Pfizer as being a "vaccine" (2), which acts directly on the pituitary gland of pigs and whose effects on human and animal health are not really known. ECVC suggests that the slaughter-weight of pigs be scaled down (3) , by testing for boar taint prior during the slaughter process (4) . ECVC asks for a true debate on this issue and for implementing the above proposal. Until this happens, producers should be allowed to continue castration with an analgesic.

Contacts :

Claude Cellier (Fr) +33 6 83 18 51 54

, Patrick Siraux (Fr) +32477810862

Gérard Choplin, Bxl team (Fr-En-De) : +32473257378

(1) See the Garot Report of the European Parliament -2000

(2) synthetic incomplete analogue of Gonadotrophin Release Factor (GnRF ) linked with a protein ( synthetic peptide analogue of GnRF, linked with a diphteric toxin)- http://www.pfizer-vet.be/service.php?module=meddocuments&action=display_document&target=384

(3) The continued increase in carcass weight has only served to reduce the costs of the industry downstream of the producer

(4) Boar-tainted pigs can then be used for charcuterie, sausages or cured meats.

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