Scotland’s pig industry can have a thriving future, providing crucial underlying structural issues are addressed, according to a Rural Affairs and Environment Committee report published today.
The report notes that the Scottish Government’s handling of a report from an independent task force set up to examine the industry’s difficulties further undermined confidence in the industry at a time when it was already low, but that now is the time to look forward and consider how best to secure the pig sector’s future.
The report follows a committee inquiry into the challenges facing Scotland’s pig industry, which heard of stakeholders’ long-standing concerns about the sustainability of the industry and perceptions that the Scottish Government had failed to address them fully.
Committee Convener Maureen Watt said: “Our inquiry has shown Scottish consumers want to go on buying Scottish pork, and recent price rises for pigmeat do give grounds for optimism.
"But the Scottish Government has a key leadership role in restoring confidence. A positive message of support from the Government accompanied by actions demonstrating its commitment to the industry in the long-term is essential. The Committee has therefore recommended a package of measures targeted at sustaining the industry.
"More also needs to be done to encourage greater consumption of local produce such as Scottish pork, for example via public procurement contracts, as unexploited opportunities still exist. Consumers need to hear more clearly the good news that the Scottish pig sector is among the most welfare conscious in the world.”
Other findings of the report include that:
the government should take all reasonable steps to safeguard the future of Scotland’s only industrial-scale pig slaughterhouse and pork processing plant at Broxburn, which is operating significantly below capacity due to a decline in pig numbers in Scotland. This should include considering grant assistance provided it is linked to a commitment from the current owners towards the plant’s long-term future
the government should provide financial assistance for producers, via the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP), to help meet the cost of any reasonable proposal to deal with new European regulations on slurry management and pollution control
measures to help new entrants into outdoor pig rearing and to encourage producers to renew and replace outdated pig buildings should be prioritised under the SRDP to help deliver an industry with sufficient critical mass and competitiveness
the committee supports the setting up of a supermarket ombudsman, empowered to help producers and retailers agree a fair price, and to offer to adjudicate in cases of dispute. The committee considers that this would help deliver greater industry stability in the longer term.