The promise of "strategic support" followed meetings between the rural affairs minister Eskil Erlandsson and agri-organisations the Swedish animal farmers association (Sveriges Djurbönder) and the Federation of Swedish Farmers (FSA/Förbundet Sveriges Arbetsterapeuter) in Stockholm on Tuesday (25 February).
"We discussed the real problems and financial hardship faced by our members," said Sveriges Djurbönder chairperson Anette Skoog. She said the minister was considering paying subsidies to cover additional animal welfare and transport costs that are incurred in Sweden. "We also discussed establishing state-backed funding schemes. The availability of this form of capital can be critical for new and growing businesses," said Skoog, whose organisation represents 14,652 independent livestock producers in Sweden.
Ministry officials plan to meet all Sweden’s leading meat industry players before the end of March to "more fully" assess the problems facing the sector, said Erlandsson. "We are constrained by certain EU competition rules in how we can support meat producers, but we will discuss how government can be more supportive…," Erlandsson said later. The ministry has agreed to establish three joint working groups with the Food Standards Agency, said the organisation’s president Helena Jonsson. "We will form three joint groups to actively work to resolve the situation. One group will focus on pig farming, the second on pork meat marketing and the third group will look at how we can best develop export channels for Swedish pork," Jonsson said.
The challenges facing the Swedish pig industry, said Jonsson, include low domestic demand coupled with the high production and transport costs influenced by Sweden’s strict farm animal welfare laws. "The problems are acute. Because of low demand, some abattoirs are refusing to take pigs for slaughter, and more farms are exporting piglets in to breeding programmes in Poland and Germany," said Jonsson.
Ingemar Olsson, president of the Swedish pig farmers association, Sveriges Grisföretagare, agreed the industry needed state support because of its high costs. According to Olsson, it costs pig farmers in Sweden up to SEK2.50 (€0.30) more to produce 1kg of pork than the per kilo price equivalent for imported pork.
"At this cost base we are struggling to compete with imported pork. When Sweden joined the EU in 1995, virtually all pork sold on the domestic market was farmed in Sweden. That is now down to 68%. The industry is in serious need of state support," said Olsson.