MAFF working flat out to tackle swine fever' MAFF's sudden change of tone in trying to reassure the pig industry over its handling of the swine fever crisis is prompting suspicion the government fears an irreversible decline in production capacity is taking place. An unusually worded statement from MAFF on October 6 claiming it was working "flat out to tackle swine fever" and announcing it had sought help from Irish, Dutch and American veterinary services followed strong protests from producers. A possible explanation for the shift in stance, suggested to The Grocer by one livestock industry leader on Monday, is the Ministry's belated recognition of the breeding herd contraction indicated by its own farm census results. The 9.3% year on year reduction in the UK total breeding herd revealed by the June census figures was not a surprise. However, very sharp declines in the numbers of pigs in the pipeline for slaughter had not been anticipated. The implication is UK processors will still be severely short of stock as importers begin their pre-Christmas supply build up. More serious is the suggestion there will be no worthwhile rebound in breeding pig numbers even next year. This means the processing industry may be stuck with permanent excess capacity, posing new questions about the part to be played by Malton in the looming sector consolidation. {{MEAT }}