Pig Industry

Part of the debate – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:00 pm on 5th October 1998.

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Photo of Mrs Joan Carson Mrs Joan Carson UUP 4:00 pm, 5th October 1998

Most of the problems have already been considered today.

I am concerned that the pig producers are currently facing heavy losses and severe financial difficulties, and as a housewife and an Assembly Member with many concerned constituents who depend totally on pig farming for their livelihood, I want to make two points.

The Government’s reaction has been tardy, and pig farmers and their families have suffered greatly. I have seen this with my own eyes in my constituency. The financial aid offered was too little and much too late. The reorganisation of the pig processing industry in Northern Ireland and the restoration of facilities to replace the loss of Lovell & Christmas may bring better times, but it will be an uphill struggle for some time. For some pig producers and their families it may be too late.

My second point concerns point-of-sale marketing. I am very basic and down-to-earth. I appeal to all Ulster housewives to show their loyalty and demand home-produced pork products in their local shops and supermarkets. That would be worthwhile. I know that is pretty basic, but it would demonstrate their concern.

At our seminar last week, Mrs Joan Whiteside from the Consumers’ Council said that it had conducted a survey which showed that Northern Ireland people were not supporting local products. Some supermarkets have responded to the pressure from pig producers and their families to stock local products. Now the public can see products clearly marked "Produce of Northern Ireland". However, in local supermarkets some sausages are marked "Irish produce", but a closer inspection shows that they have been made in England. Shoppers can play their part by reading the print — which, admittedly, can sometimes be quite small — and ensure that they buy local products.

There has been an expansion of multiple supermarkets here, and that has led to the dropping of local suppliers, not only of pork but of vegetables and dairy products. Even milk has been found to be packaged in Manchester.

I appreciate that we all depend on others accepting Ulster products, and it is important that we increase our exports, but charity begins at home. A good home market will ensure a sound foundation for future development. I appeal to Ulster housewives to support the pig farmers by buying locally-produced pork.