asked Her Majesty's Government:
Further to the Written Answer by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Marine, Landscape and Rural Affairs, Jonathan Shaw, on 10 December 2007 (Official Report, cols. 39-40W), what assessment they have made of the effect of the drop in the number of pigs in breeding herds from 629,915 in 1998 to 374,861 in 2007; and what steps are in place to reduce this decline.
Information on UK breeding pigs and pigmeat production is collected in various forms by Defra; for example the United Kingdom Pig Notice, published quarterly, includes statistics on breeding herds, slaughter and trade.
The number of pigs in breeding herds declined after 1998 for several reasons including the effects on productivity of animal diseases, and also the recovery of the beef market following BSE, the costs of production, exchange rate movements and increased competition from imports. The government-funded Pig Industry Restructuring Scheme of 2000-01 was brought in to help secure the longer-term viability of the sector. The decline in the breeding herds has slowed in recent years although the industry continues to face considerable challenges. It is to be commended for working to secure a sustainable future through market principles and improvements in efficiency and production standards. Defra is supportive of the efforts of the industry and is currently funding a £2 million programme through the Meat and Livestock Commission to aid market recovery in the pigmeat and other red meat sectors affected by last year's foot and mouth outbreak.