THE restoration of confidence and the promotion of assurance schemes are two of the keys to the future of the British pig industry.

In a submission to Sir Donald Curry's Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food, the British Pig Executive also called for effective research and equalisation in the implementation of rules and regulations across the EU.

Mr Richard Campbell, BPEX chairman, said producers and processors had set up independently audited quality assurance schemes, integrated across the supply chain; used promotional funds to convey that message to consumers through the quality standard mark and invested in research and development into improving competitiveness.

"All this has been achieved in a non-subsidised sector of food production which has been fully exposed to competition from other foods and other countries," he said

"The industry has been challenged severely with the higher costs of welfare legislation, the consequential cost of BSE controls and most recently the impact of foot-and-mouth controls."

Even though very few pigs were infected by foot-and-mouth, the cost to the industry had been immense.

l The commission also heard from the Soil Association that the government must increase its support for organic farmers to bring them into line with European competitors.

The association said organic farming should be used to spearhead the move towards more sustainable food production.

Increased financial support must, however, be provided for farmers who converted to organic methods and ongoing stewardship payments introduced, in recognition of the environmental benefits afforded by organic farming.

Such payments would put UK farmers on a level with counterparts in most other European Union countries where on-going payments range from £35 to £700 a hectare annually.

It claimed 85pc of the public wanted the government do more to encourage the sector.