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French Pig Slaughterers Fined EU4.5 Million for Market Fixing

Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Five French pig-slaughter companies were fined a total of 4.5 million euros ($6.1 million) for agreeing to reduce hog purchases from breeders with the goal of cutting prices they pay, France’s antitrust regulator said.

The slaughterhouses in Brittany, France’s largest pig-production region, colluded for 12-week period between June and September 2009, the Autorite de la Concurrence wrote in documents handed out at a press conference in Paris today.

France is the European Union’s third-biggest pork producer after Germany and Spain. Brittany, west of the French capital, accounted for 57 percent of the country’s pig slaughtering in 2011, with 14.3 million animals processed, government data show.

“The main practice that was penalized was a collective fixing of the quantities of pigs purchased by five large Breton slaughterers with the goal, in particular, of lowering the price for pigs paid to the breeders,” the authority wrote.

Slaughterers Socopa Viandes SAS and Groupe Bigard SA were jointly fined 1.8 million euros for the collusion, Groupe Bigard was fined another 1.3 million euros, Etablissements Abera SAS was ordered to pay 592,533 euros, Bernard SAS 573,213 euros and GAD SAS and Financiere du Forest SA jointly 250,000 euros, according to the regulator.

All companies involved admitted to the violations, the document said.

Pig breeders face difficulty delaying the sale of slaughter-ready hogs, according to the antitrust authority, meaning fewer purchases by the slaughterers increased supply.

“Downward pressure on prices did indeed become evident during the summer of 2009 in the price of pork,” the Autorite de la Concurrence wrote.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net

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