Pig Industry

Part of the debate – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:45 pm on 5th October 1998.

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Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party 4:45 pm, 5th October 1998

We have had a good debate.

There is a reason why we have highlighted the crisis in the pig industry, although I am fully aware, as is every informed Member, that there is a crisis right across the board in agriculture.

There have been times in the Province when individual sectors of agriculture have been under intense pressure. The whole of agriculture is under intense pressure but the most intense pressure, at the moment, is on the pig industry. We have heard in this debate, and rightly so, that there are worldwide pressures. There is a strong pound. We will not be able to do anything about that in time to save the pig industry. These are the facts. The Prime Minister is saying that he is keeping the pound strong, and the Chancellor is backing him up, yet this policy is utter folly — it will destroy the economy and especially the manufacturing industry. But that is the policy and if we wait for a change of heart, we will have no pig industry. That is the sad fact that we have to face. Of course, there are ramifications from Russia and Europe. But if we wait until they are solved, we will not have a pig industry. We need immediate and effective action.

I have my qualms about Europe as everybody knows. But we are in Europe, and Europe controls agriculture. Have we never heard of the Common Agricultural Policy? The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food does not make decisions; down the road does not make the decisions — the decisions are made in Brussels. Let us remember that.

If we are going to do anything by way of an Agriculture Committee or an inquiry, we need to go to Brussels to put the pressure on. If we are going across the water, let us go to the Prime Minister. He seems to have little bags of money here and there, and when he gets into difficulty, he throws a few million out.

There is no use in going to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food — the hardest and cruellest civil servants ever brought out of the womb of the Civil service sit in that Ministry, and I do not know whether the good Lord can convert them to a reasonable point of view, though, of course, I believe in the majesty and sovereignty of grace, being a Presbyterian. However, we must take this matter to the Prime Minister and to Europe as soon as possible, because every day men are facing ruin.

A beef producer whom I know now owes £45,000, and he is terrified. He never owed money like that in his life. Another producer in the pig industry owes £25,000 as a result of the last three months. These men cannot live with this. It is terrifying because they always had a viable industry and a cash flow. There is no cash flow now, so some things need to be done immediately and pressure must be exerted to ease the financial worries of farmers.

I believe that this can be done in two ways. One way is to give money direct to the pig producers. There is no use in giving money to the factories. There is no use in giving money to the meal men. We need to alleviate and lift the strain. We must bring hope amidst despair; we must work; we must make demands because if we do not, there will not be a viable pig industry remaining. If the pig industry goes, more parts of farming will be sacrificed. If we allow the British Government or any power to let the pig sector of agriculture disappear, all sectors will be destroyed. We need to go to the authorities and put pressure on them.

We must also talk to the bankers — and I would like the Assembly to do the talking. The bankers were very good at going around the farmers, encouraging them and saying "You know you should do this, that and the other thing — there is money here for you."

The evil day comes when the bank manager sends for you. We have all had the experience. He looks over his glasses and says, "Your credit is too much — you must reduce it each month". The man has no way of reducing it. He is at wit’s end corner. We need to make immediate decisions on those two levels because financial pressure will kill the industry.

This is a serious business and many factors are involved. Some of the pig merchants have been in the industry for generations and they are broken-hearted. At breakfast time there is a shadow over them and at teatime the shadow is still there. We must think of them. If this part of agriculture is torn out of our country where will those people find employment? Where will the pig men and their families go? They will be for ever unemployed.

We can make progress. It will not be easy because the Government always say, "You want more money". We do want money. We want money to bail out this industry and to keep it going. Slaughtering must be speeded up by those who have got money from the Government to keep the industry going. I have a good personal relationship with the management of Maltons, but I am greatly disappointed by what has happened, and I am making representations direct to the company. We must have action. Some of the people who are suffering were good Malton customers. They were not Wilson customers, and they are feeling the burden and heat of the day. We must push them for action.