Demand for British pig breeding stock in France is likely to soar in the near future, according to a party of French farmers visiting Woodchurch, Kent, to inspect the 300-sow herd of Cotswold hybrid pigs belonging to the chairman of the British Agricultural Export Council, Sir Rudi Sternberg.
They said the boom would result from generous grants and cheap loans the French government had recently introduced to encourage expansion of the national pig herd.
There were plans to double the size of the herd – now numbering about 1.2 million sows – during the next 10 years.
This move was part of a major change in French agricultural policy. Up until now farmers had been encouraged to concentrate on grain production, much of the crop being exported at comparatively low prices.
And because of the high price of grain on the home market, pigs had been expensive to produce in France and it was more economic to buy them abroad.
About three million pigs were imported last year, mainly from West Germany and Belgium, but the French government now wanted to arrest this flow by encouraging home production.
The visiting farmers said the government incentives were available only to members of co-operatives. Breeders received a direct grant for 40 per cent of the cost of new farrowing houses plus a cheap loan for another 40 per cent, the 4½ per cent interest being repaid over 12 years. This meant they had to put down only 20 per cent of the cost.
Fattening houses qualified for a direct loan of 10 per cent and the same loan was available.
All the visitors were customers of Duquesne-Purina, France’s largest feed firm who have the French franchise for Cotswold pigs. A breeding unit of 200 foundation sows was established in France in November 1968 and a second unit for 150 sows is now being started.
“French breeders now have 1,070 Cotswold grandparent sows with a potential output of about 4,280 parent gilts a year,” said Mr Julian Leeds, livestock manager of the Cotswold Pig Development Company, who accompanied the visitors.
“These will produce about 70,000 slaughter pigs a year. Within a few years we hope the annual production of slaughter pigs from Cotswold parents in France will reach the half million mark,” he added.