The prospect of imported pigmeat carrying the Quality Standard Mark is just months away, according to the British Pig Executive.
Outgoing BPEX marketing manager Chris Lukehurst told The Grocer he expected Dutch producers to adopt the mark soon, though he conceded that it might take pressure from their customers to force their hand.
“What we don’t know is whether they are getting their ducks in a row in case the retailers ask them to adopt the mark, or whether they are planning to use it anyway.”
However, he admitted producers in Denmark were proving harder to win over.
Lukehurst was speaking after the publication of figures
showing that imports of pigmeat into the UK rose year-on-year by 2% in volume during 2004.
This compared favourably with a 14% increase in 2003.
Lukehurst said he was still disappointed that BPEX’s
campaign against imports had not so far reversed the upward trend.“In one sense we are relaxed about imports growing, because we don’t want people to stop eating pigmeat, and if we are not producing enough here then we need imports. But one reason we are not producing enough here is because of the differences in welfare standards between UK farmers and those on the Continent.”
Lukehurst said BPEX figures showed that two thirds of pigmeat imported into the UK was still “produced to welfare standards that do not conform to the UK legal minimum”.
He said he was concerned that Continental producers were successfully persuading retailers that confining sows for four weeks in the early stages of pregnancy - which is illegal in the UK - was acceptable.
“It worries me that they are muddying the waters. Retailers are saying to us: ‘we thought it was all right’. But we refute that, because it’s illegal in the UK.”
Richard Clarke