BYGONE DAYS: Ulster MP urges need for action against smuggling

An appeal to the Minister of Agriculture (the Reverend Robert Moore) to take steps to cut down the smuggling of pigs, sheep and cattle over the border was made by Dr Robert Simpson (Unionist, Mid-Antrim) in the Ulster House of Commons during this week in late May 1954 reported the News Letter.

Saturday, 29th May 2021, 10:00 am
Philip Gaw and Porsch’s Diamond with room to spare. A clear round in 51.00 secs secured second place in the 1.20m feature event at Causeway Coast Community Showjumpers in May 2011. Picture: Derek Simpson/Farming Life archives

Speaking during the debate on the second reading of the Marketing of Pigs (Amendment) Bill, Dr Simpson said that smuggling was of benefit neither to the farmers in Northern Ireland nor to those in Eire. He said it “upsets the applecart” of any marketing scheme in either country and that dealers were the only ones to benefit.


Mr Moore, the Minister of Agriculture, said that it was not the responsibility of his ministry to deal with smuggling.

Claire Spillane-Pattison and Little Task: Early Bird prizewinners with a clear round over 0.90m at Portrush in May 2011. Picture: Derek Simpson/Farming Life archives

“We had better leave it in the hands of Customs and Excises,” he remarked. “I do not believe that the British Treasury will remain very long remiss about a matter of this kind, and I think we can trust them to take any steps that are needed.”

He said that if they asked his ministry to co-operate in any practical steps to cope with the problem, “it [the ministry] would do so as it had done in the past”.

Mr Moore remarked that it was just a time when the market in Northern Ireland had all the supplies of pigs that it could cope with that “people from outside” would start to “try to send pigs into Northern Ireland”.

Moving the second reading of the Bill, he announced that it was proposed that the Pigs Marketing Board should be reconstituted in Northern Ireland and it would have compulsory powers over trade in bacon pigs and power to trade voluntarily in other pigs.

Liam McGarry and Caugherty winning the 1.10 m event at Portrush in May 2011 with a clear round in 24.89 seconds. Picture: Derek Simpson/Farming Life archives


Mr Moore said that the control of the marketing of fatstock, which had been in operation since the beginning of 1940, terminated at the end of June 1954, “and our farmers would then be free to sell their cattle, sheep and pigs as they liked”.

Arrangements were in hand, he said, which would take care of the marketing of cattle and sheep and pork pigs through auction centres, but “the position was different in the case of bacon pigs”.

He said: “Since the inception of the pigs marketing scheme in 1933 our pig producers, numbering some 60,000, had been accustomed to market their fat pigs through two distinct channels.

Debbie Byrne on Matakana clears the 1.00 metre course at Portrush in 49.03 seconds. Picture: Derek Simpson/Farming Life archives

“Dead pigs had always been marketed direct to roll and ham curers, and live pigs, up to 1940, had been sold to the Pigs Marketing Board or Wiltshire curers, and since 1940 to my ministry acting as agent for the Ministry of Food.”

He continued: “The National Farmers’ Unions of England and Scotland, and of Scotland, and the Ulster Farmers’ Union have promoted a scheme for regulating the marketing of fatstock in the United Kingdom, but that scheme, assuming that it successfully passes through all its stages, will not come into operation until next spring, and it is to safeguard the position of our pig producers during interim period following the end of control that I am introducing this Bill.”


Mr Moore said that there was every indication that Northern Ireland would have “an all-time record” in the production of pigs in 1954, with a surplus to the country’s bacon trade requirements.

He explained: “Already we have had in the first four months of the year shipped 110,000 pigs, compared with none in the corresponding period last year. It is expected that a total of 400,000 will be shipped during the year.”

He noted that most of these pigs were lightweight pork pigs, “and it might be that if the auction system for them was not at times attractive they would be retained on the farm until they became baconers”.

The Minister of Agriculture continued: “A situation could arise upon decontrol whereby we would have more pigs than the home bacon curing industry could absorb.

“Pigs, unlike cattle and sheep, must be marketed when they have reached the rather limited weight range for bacon production – they cannot be held on farms.

“Though our farmers would receive the guarantee payments, there could arise a position when we could not clear the pigs off our farms, which could possibly lead to chaos in the late summer and early autumn months when production is reaching its peak and shipping space is in keen demand for other stock.”