A major cause of this has been foot and mouth disease. Russia, Japan and South Korea imposed bans on British and French pork imports after the outbreak of the disease in 2001, and competitors such as Brazil have moved in to fill the gap in the market.
The private storage scheme will provide operators who store pig carcasses and cuts at their own expense and risk for a period of their choice with EU support to cover their storage costs. Depending on the length of the storage period and on the type of product concerned, the cost of the measure is estimated at around €30 million for about 80,000 tonnes.
The measure will enter into force on 22 December, following the formal adoption by the Commission. It will be possible to introduce offers as from that date.
"This measure will bring relief to the producers hit by low demand and low prices. The private storage scheme will help stabilise the market in the difficult winter season," said Franz Fischler, EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries.
The EU has taken other steps to support Europe's fragile pig economy. This month a radical new test to be used after vaccination against classical swine fever (CSF) was approved, which makes it possible, in case of emergency vaccination with a marker vaccine, to distinguish vaccinated pigs from pigs naturally infected with CSF.
This new development could have enormous benefits for meat processors. Classical swine fever is a viral infection of domestic and feral pigs (wild boar) that causes a serious disease with very high mortality. There is no known risk that the CSF virus may cause any disease in humans, but its occurrence in the EU creates an obstacle to internal and international trade and outbreaks can cause significant economic losses. For these, and for animal welfare reasons, its eradication from the EU is one of the priorities in the animal health area.
In recent years the control of CSF has been difficult in some Member States, in particular in areas with a high density of pigs. In particular, the epidemic, which occurred in 1997/98 in the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Belgium and Italy lead to heavy economic costs and losses for the EU, the Member States and the pig-farmers concerned, due to the killing and destruction of a very high number of animals, which also raised ethical questions. Further serious outbreaks of this disease have occurred in the UK in 2000 and in Spain in 2001/2002.