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NPA responds to Michael Gove comments on pigs' ears to China

3rd Oct 2017 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has responded to the suggestion by Defra Secretary Michael Gove that Brexit could open the doors to sales of pigs' ears to China.

GoveMr Gove told a Conservative Party Conference fringe meeting hosted by the Countryside Alliance that one area where Brexit offered an opportunity for farmers was the sale of unpierced pigs' ears.

Reiterating comments he made in front of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee in September, he said: “Most people will be aware that there are some cuts of the animal that are hugely popular with the British consumer, others a little less.

"But some of those cuts are hugely popular elsewhere: for example pigs' ears are a delicacy in China. One of the reasons we've not been as successful as we might have been in selling pigs ears into China is that EU rules dictate pigs like all livestock have ear tags.”

Mr Gove said there 'very good reasons' for the rule in terms of traceability but added that, outside the EU the UK can have its own traceability mechanisms, in this case meaning pigs' ears wouldn't need to be pierced.

He said un-pierced pigs ears were worth more, enabling the UK to sell more pigs' ears to China. "And that means there can be more bacon and pork and ham from the other joints from the animal that are popular here, sold here,” he added.

NPA response

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: "The UK pig industry is already making great strides in exporting products to China, including the recent announcement paving the way for exports of trotters from three UK abattoirs. 

"Whilst we thank Mr Gove for his continued support of the pig sector and desire to help us increase our export market, the current China pork export deal was negotiated on a bilateral basis between the UK and China and is not part of any EU trade deal. 

"We would certainly welcome any opportunity to look at modernising traceability rules post Brexit however.   

"Beyond this we would urge Mr Gove to ensure the Government does not make a pig's ear of Brexit for our farmers. That means ensuring fair trade, with continued free access to the EU market, alongside protection from lower standard imports as part of any new trade deals, while also making sure the industry retains access to permanent, so-called 'low-skilled' workers from the EU that the UK pig industry relies so heavily on". 

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