Pig sector continues to make major strides in reducing antibiotic use
The NPA has welcomed the latest figures showing another significant reduction in antibiotic usage in the pig sector.
Figures collected using the electronic medicine book (eMB) show antibiotic use dropped by a further 16% in 2018 to reach 110 mg/PCU, edging closer to the 2020 industry target of 99 mg/PCU and in line with annual targets.
The figures show a continued reduction from 131mg/PCU in 2017, 183mg/PCU in 2016 and 238mg/PCU in 2015.
Equally, if not more significantly, there has also been a further decrease in the use of critically important antibiotics (CIAs), recorded at just 0.06mg/PCU in 2018, of which Colistin represented a negligible 0.004mg/PCU. The CIA figure is down from 0.1mg/PCU in 2017.
Adding extra weight to the figures, the data taken from eMB represents 89% of pigs slaughtered in the UK.
NPA senior policy advisor Rebecca Veale said: “We are really pleased with these results, which show the industry remains well on track to meet the challenging antibiotic targets set by the pig industry via the RUMA targets task force in 2017.
“This continuing progress demonstrates the pig industry’s responsible approach to antibiotics and the ongoing hard work of producers, with their vets and others involved in pig production.
“Engagement and support from vets will continue to be very important as the industry works to deliver further reductions in the coming years, with an industry-wide focus on pig health.”
However, she warned that there will be challenges ahead, notably the loss of zinc oxide and the potential impact this could have on disease in post-weaned piglets.
“We must also continue to bear in mind that antibiotics are a necessary tool to treat sick animals on pig farms. As we strive to deliver further reductions, the aim must always to be responsible use, rather than zero use, to ensure the welfare of pigs is maintained.”
For more information, contact Rebecca Veale 07551 155654
UK pork producers suffering mounting debts as processors pocket millions
UK pork producers are losing out on millions of pounds each month as pig prices fail to
move in line with clear global trends.
The kick in the teeth from UK pork processors comes during a prolonged period when pig
producers have been losing money on every pig they produce.
Figures from AHDB show margins turned red in the second half of 2018. In the last quarter
of 2018, producers were typically losing £7 on every pig they produced and the losses have
increased into this year, potentially by another £2-3/pig, as average prices have fallen further and costs have remained high.
Producers were expecting a change of fortune as the surge in demand for pigmeat from
China, a result of the African swine fever virus wiping out around a quarter of their pork
production, saw a big lift in the global pig price in the first few months of this year.
The EU reference price has rocketed by 30p/kg since early February to stand at nearly
147p/kg in mid-May, with huge increases seen in all the major pig producing countries.
But until a few weeks ago, the UK had price barely moved. Recent small increases have seen
the Standard Pig Price (SPP) increase to 144p/kg, but this is still only 6p above early February levels.
AHDB estimates that another 6-8p needs to be added to the UK price to make it equivalent
to the EU price to account for issues like levies, deductions and haulage costs, costs, all of
which apply to UK producers only.
With this in mind, the NPA has been doing some number crunching to assess the losses UK
producers are incurring.
Our calculations show that the recent failure to match the average EU price means UK producers lost out on well over £1m each week between mid-April and mid/late-May, adding
up to more than £8m over the five-week period.
The figure is even higher, £13m over five weeks, if we factor in the typical premium UK pork
usually earns over imported EU product to take into account, for example, the UK’s higher
welfare, higher cost production systems.
Processors have blamed the slow UK price response on Brexit stockpiling, as they have been
making their way through excessive volumes of pigmeat put into storage in the first three
months of this year. They have also spoken of weak demand.
But NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said these excuses were not sufficient to explain the
static prices and that furious producers were seeking answers.
“These figures highlight the extent to which UK producers are losing out because of the actions of UK processors. We are talking about losses in the region £8m to £13m over just five
weeks, which is totally unacceptable.
“We do not believe the gap between UK and EU prices is justified and want to see far more
significant increases in the coming weeks.”
The NPA is also keen to discuss the possibility of a pork supply chain Code of Conduct with
Defra to ensure fairer and more transparent pricing in the long-term.
NPA chairman Richard Lister said the recent UK price rises were an ‘insult to the hard work
of the pig industry’.
He said: “It is too little, too late. The price continues to push further ahead in the EU and the
small increases we have seen do not come close to compensating producers for the millions
lost since early February.
“We have spent the last 10 years being told the price can’t go up further because Europe is
too far behind. But we are now told prices can’t go up for another multiple set of reasons. It
is very difficult to know what to believe and where we stand.
“The excuses given by processors simply do not stack up – especially when we see the likes
of Cranswick posting profits of nearly £90m, partly on the back of strong Asian export
“Producers are angry and frustrated and we will continue to voice their concerns and seek
For more information, contact Richard Lister – 07734 162883
or Lizzie Wilson – 07790 117091 Email: Lizzie.Wilson@npanet.org.uk
NPA calls for no deal option to be removed following latest Brexit setback
The NPA has urged the Government and MPs to end the uncertainty for pig farmers, following the latest defeat for Theresa May over her Brexit plans.
MPs voted by 391 to 242 votes to reject the Prime Minister’s EU Withdrawal Agreement last night, meaning there is now less clarity than ever over the UK’s future, including its vital trading relations.
They will vote again tonight on whether to leave the EU without a deal on March 29. If, as expected, that notion is rejected, there will be a further vote on Thursday about whether to request an extension of Article 50 from the European Commission.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “Last night’s vote simply prolongs the uncertainty. It has brought the threat of a damaging no deal Brexit, if not at the end of March at some undisclosed point in the future, a step closer.
“This outcome would have potentially catastrophic consequences for the pig industry. For the good of the British pig sector, we must avoid a no deal. We need cull sow export access. We need to be able to export our breeding animals and have sustainable access to medicines. We also need to ensure a sensible trade in Ireland and to avoid a volatile pound.
“We urge MPs to see sense and work together to find some sort of agreement that brings clarity and some form of continuity to sectors like ours.
“We can’t overstate the impact the uncertainty is having on the sector in terms of stifling investment and, above all, confidence. It is impossible to plan for the future when we don’t know what that future looks like.”
The Government has today published its plans for the UK’s import tariff regime in the event of a no deal. While 87% of imports would be tariff-free, there is some protection for agricultural products, including pork.
NPA senior policy advisor Ed Barker said: “We welcome the fact we have some kind of protections on imports in the event of a no deal, especially on the high value cuts such as loin and leg. In this scenario, pork could be coming in from anywhere in the world, so some protection to prevent the market being flooded and undermining domestic production is essential.
“While far from perfect, this represents something of a win for NPA. At one stage it looked like there would not be any protection all all, but we made a strong argument about why some tariffs must be retained. The outcome is much more favourable than appeared likely a few weeks ago."
For more information, contact Ed Barker Mobile: 07741 263194
NPA urges Government to refrain from unfair and damaging Brexit tariff regime
The Government could cause untold damage to the British pig sector if it waives tariffs and checks on imports in the event of Brexit no deal.
The Cabinet has been discussing how the UK’s tariff regime would look if we leave the EU without the Withdrawal Agreement in place. An announcement is expected soon.
Cabinet Ministers, including International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, have made it clear the UK is considering a regime of zero or low tariffs on agricultural food imports to try and keep food prices under control. Yet UK exporters would face full EU tariffs and border delays on a wide range of products if we exit without a transition period in place.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said this scenario would place many pig businesses in an impossible position where they would be unable to compete with cheap imports and seriously undermine the industry’s capacity to produce British pork.
“The NPA has always said we see opportunities from leaving the EU, as long as the trading conditions are fair. But a zero-tariff would not be fair and would be a kick in the teeth for the UK pork sector.
“It would be the worst of all worlds, putting enormous pressure on businesses already operating under the tightest of margins. It would jeopardise the future of pork production in the UK, increasing our reliance on imports. We strongly urge the Government to consider this as it finalises its policy.”
A report by AHDB published this week spelled out the implications for the pig sector of this uneven tariff regime. It concluded that export tariffs would make UK pork uncompetitive on the EU market. In particular, the important sow trade to Germany would become uneconomical and, with few alternative outlets, this would potentially create practical problems on farms as well as damaging producers financially.
Domestic prices would have to fall to compete and, with over half of UK pig meat exports shipped to the EU, this would have a significant impact on the industry, the report concludes.
It notes that while the UK could apply reciprocal tariffs on pig meat imports from the EU, this would force up domestic prices, which may be unacceptable to consumers. But if the UK decide against imposing tariffs on EU pig meat imports, tariffs on imports from non-EU countries would be removed as well under WTO rules. This increased competition for domestic producers could exert further downward pressure on UK prices.
NPA senior policy advisor Ed Barker pointed out that existing EU quotas could enable the UK to continue exporting to the EU for a few months after we leave, though friction to export trade processes will always remain.
He said: “But once the tariffs kick in, allied with delays at ports and added bureaucracy and costs for exporters, the impact will be felt across the entire British pork industry.
“If, at the same time imports are waved in from across the world with minimal checks and zero tariffs, this will create an unfair and destructive trading environment. We have seen Government outline a brighter future for British agriculture, allowing us to produce more high quality, traceable food in the UK. A no deal Brexit undermines all of that.”
NPA urges caution on 'Method of Production' labelling
The National Pig Association (NPA) has urged caution on calls to introduce ‘Method of Production’ labelling on meat and dairy products.
The subject is due to be discussed today at a Westminster Forum event in London on the future of food labelling in the UK.
The British pig sector already uses an established voluntary Code of Practice which defines several terms related to pig production methods, such as ‘outdoor bred’, ‘outdoor reared’ and ‘free range’. These are widely used by retailers on pork product labels.
The NPA understands the desire expressed by some groups to label meat and dairy products with specific definitions of how the animals used to produce them were reared, including for pigs reared indoors. But it warned that applying this to pork products would be extremely complex and could end up misleading consumers, as well as being unnecessary.
NPA senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford said: “There is already good consistency in the use of production method labels on pork and this information is available for those consumers that are interested. The Red Tractor logo is also a useful indication to consumers that the product they are purchasing has been produced in Britain and can be fully traced back to the farm.
“Pig production systems employed in the UK are highly diverse and difficult to categorise into simple terms. For example, a pig may be born outside and then reared in different types of indoor accommodation at different stages. Similarly, much of the pork from a pig reared as free range or outdoor bred/reared is sold as conventionally reared pork at a standard price. It would be very difficult to design a clear label in these cases.
“There is also likely to be significant cost involved in ensuring pork, especially when used as an ingredient within other products, is labelled accurately and in a meaningful way, which would inevitably be passed on to both consumers and producers.
“It is also important to point out that while terms related to production method can be useful for giving an indication of how an animal has been reared, they should not be used as a proxy for animal welfare. All pig farms, big or small, indoor or outdoor, can achieve good health and welfare outcomes, depending on how they are managed and it is important that this is recognised.
"We believe there is a limit to the amount of useful and easy-to-understand information that can be put on food labels, and this is something that has been explored through Defra commissioned research. Going beyond what is already required by law is likely to lead to greater rather than less confusion amongst consumers. “The NPA believes it would be better to focus on improving awareness of existing labels, before looking at extending further labelling requirements through law.
There is already legislation in place that aims to protect consumers from misleading product labelling. We strongly support better enforcement of this legislation, in particular where images on pork products indicate a different type of production system to that which the pig was raised, as this is misleading to consumers.”
Notes to editorsTo view our latest Westminster brief, which includes a full explanation of our position on MOP labelling, click here
For more information, contact Georgina Crayford
Mobile: 07551 155654
NPA urges Government to keep biosecurity guard up after we leave the EU
The NPA has expressed serious concerns about the potentially heightened risk of animal disease incursion in the event of a Brexit ‘no deal’.
The UK pig sector is currently on high alert as African swine fever (ASF) spreads rapidly across Europe, reaching Belgium in September, and other regions, notably China.
In a report published on Wednesday, the House of Lords EU Energy and Environ-ment Sub-Committee warned that the UK's biosecurity could be compromised after we leave the EU. The committee highlighted at least seven areas that the UK Gov-ernment will need to address before Brexit day, in order to maintain our current de-fences:
Capacity in the veterinary sector;
Inspections and audits;
Access to research funding;
Enforcement of biosecurity legislation;
Capacity within Government departments and agencies; and
The legislative framework.
It expressed doubt that the UK would have effective replacement systems ready in the event of a no-deal Brexit in March 2019.
The report concluded that the Government will have to strike a balance between maintaining the integrity of the UK's biosecurity and the need to facilitate trade and reduce delays at the UK's ports and airports.
The NPA gave evidence to the inquiry, warning that Brexit posed ‘great risks to the industry’, particularly with the current threat posed by ASF.
The NPA submission stated: “There is a risk that the uncertainty brought about by Brexit would make an easy opportunity for disease to be imported. This could come as a result of fewer resources being put into disease surveillance and border control, less communication with European partners in surveillance activity, or a wilful dilution of standards in imported products.”
NPA senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford pointed out that the British pig industry has suffered from two devastating notifiable disease outbreaks in the past, Classical Swine Fever in 2000 and foot-and-mouth disease in 2001, which cost the UK gov-ernment an estimated £8bn.
“We have been concerned for some time about the issues raised in the report and we are delighted the committee has raised them in its report,” she said.
“The UK pig sector has worked exceptionally hard to maintain its notifiable disease free status and so must be assured that our ability to protect the health of the nation-al herd will not be weakened by Brexit.”
Dr Crayford highlighted cases reported recently where surveillance at airports, in-cluding in the US and Japan, has identified meat infected with the ASF virus carried by passengers before it got any further.
“The most likely route of entry for the virus is infected meat brought into the country through our ports or airports – one lapse could cause devastation across the UK pig sector. If ASF got into our herd, it could result in the slaughter of thousands of pigs, effectively bring the pig sector to a standstill for months, cut off our burgeoning ex-port market overnight, worth nearly £300 million in 2017 and cause major disruption in the countryside,” she said.
“We understand the pressures associated with a no deal, but want to stress in the strongest possible terms that it is absolutely essential that the Government does not take any shortcuts with surveillance and border checks, whenever we leave the EU. The stakes are too high.
“We will continue to engage constructively with Defra and APHA about our post-Brexit biosecurity arrangements.”
For more information, contact Georgina Crayford Mobile: 07551 155654
Brexit 'No Deal' the worst of all worlds for UK pig industry
A Brexit ‘no deal’ could leave the UK pig industry facing a disastrous situation where exports to the EU are blocked but imports continue to flood in.
The latest set of Defra technical papers on a no deal includes an explanation of the implications for exports of live animals and animal products. In order to export to the EU, Export Health Certificates would be required from the end of March 2019, with consignments needing to travel through a Border Inspection Post within the EU.
The EU would require the UK to be a listed third country, but Defra acknowledged it ‘cannot be certain’ of the EU response to such a request or its timing. It is expected the process could take at least six months. Without listed status no exports to the EU could take place.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies warned this scenario could have catastrophic consequences for a sector increasingly underpinned by export trade. In the first seven months of this year more than 110,000 tonnes of pig products were exported to the EU, equating to nearly 60% of all UK pigmeat exports.
Dr Davies said: “A no deal could be the worst of all worlds for the UK pig industry. If exports are blocked but we continue importing pigmeat from the EU in large quantities, as the Government appears willing to do, it would blow a huge hole through the economics of the UK pig sector.
“Because of carcass balance issues, the UK would be swamped with pigmeat that had little value on the domestic market, dragging down the pig price and making it very difficult for many pig businesses to continue operating.
“As we have repeatedly stated, EU trade is critical to ensure the UK pig sector can function properly. It is therefore essential that the Government does everything in its power to secure frictionless trade after we leave the EU.
“But in the event of a no deal, we expect a much more forward thinking and cohesive plan from the Government than the flimsy and uncertain arrangements contained in this document. If the situation persists, it could result in the collapse of the supply chain with producers and processors going out of business.”
NPA senior policy advisor Ed Barker said the document also made it clear it would be difficult to export live animals after we leave the EU.
“It offers no real answers about what would happen to movements of pork products and live pigs across the Irish border. This could cause huge problems on both sides of the border.
“The Government’s approach to imports is also a concern. Brexit actually provides an opportunity to limit imports from areas that pose biosecurity risks to the UK pork sector. But from the evidence of these documents, the Government seems happy to do the total opposite.”
For more information, contact Zoe Davies Mobile: 07814 448956
Report on future post-Brexit employment policy 'fundamentally misses the point' - NPA
A report setting out proposals for the UK’s employment policy after we leave the EU fundamentally misses the point, the NPA said.
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) concluded that there is no need for agriculture to receive special treatment beyond seasonal workers, after we leave the EU.
The committee said there should be no ‘explicit work migration route for low-skilled workers with the possible exception of a seasonal agricultural workers schemes’. It suggested the supply of low-skilled workers could be made up of existing EU workers, family labour and an expanded youth mobility scheme, rather than a dedicated employer scheme.
But it ignored the evidence submitted by the NPA and other organisations across the food and farming supply chain about the industry’s reliance on permanent EU labour, often in so-called ‘low-skilled’ positions.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “We are incredibly disappointed by this report as it completely misses the point about the role played by EU workers in the pig sector and right across agriculture and blatantly dismisses the valid concerns that we and others have raised.
“We are fully supportive of measures to encourage more domestic workers into agriculture and are actively working to achieve this. But that cannot for a moment mask the fact that we will continue to be reliant on access to EU workers to carry out roles, which in many cases are defined by the Government as ‘low-skilled’, but in reality are far from that.
“The MAC received a weight of evidence from the food and farming sector to back this up, including the results of our own member survey highlighting this sector’s dependence on EU workers.
“The MAC’s report could have serious implications for the UK’s ability to produce its own food. If our future access to EU labour is significantly restricted, the UK pig sector will simply not be in a position to produce and process the top quality British pork products enjoyed by consumers around the world.
“We are appalled at how flippantly our evidence had been ignored and urge the Government to ignore the report’s findings in relation to agriculture. Do we really want to export our food production capacity with such an uncertain future ahead of us?”
Notes to editors
A survey of NPA members from across the pig sector in October 2017 showed:
- Just over a half of respondents employed at least one non-UK worker, with 24% hiring more than a quarter of their labour from overseas.
- Around 90% of businesses using non-UK labour employed them on a permanent basis, with 94% of non-UK workers coming from the EU.
- 64% of those employing EU labour said it had become harder to find EU labour since the vote. None said it had got easier.
- Nearly half of those employing EU labour said EU workers they employed were considering leaving the UK due to uncertainty over Brexit.
For more information, contact Zoe Davies Mobile: 07814 448956
Agriculture Bill offers opportunities for the pig sector - NPA
The NPA has welcomed the publication of the Agriculture Bill, setting out the frame-work for a significant shift in farm policy after we leave the EU.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “The Bill, based around the principle of public money for public goods, clearly contains opportunities for the pig sector.
“This includes, potentially, support for our continuing drive to improve health and wel-fare on pig farms and for investment in buildings, equipment and technology to help boost productivity and deliver better environmental outcomes, alongside these high health and welfare standards. Funding to encourage new entrants and for new re-search could also benefit the pig sector.
“But the details are all still to be finalised and, as a previously unsupported sector, we will work with Defra to ensure any new initiatives deliver meaningful benefits for the pig industry. It is critical, for example, that new health and welfare initiatives fo-cus on delivering positive outcomes, rather than trying to drive system change, and are delivered in the context the market place pig farmers operate within.”
The NPA is currently in the process of defining the pig sectors’ priorities under the post-Brexit farm support system.
Notes to editors
You can read more about the NPA’s position on Brexit in our Health and Harmony Command Paper response here and in our Brexit Opportunities and Challenges briefing paper here
For more information, contact Zoe Davies Mobile: 07814 448956
Farming industry needs permanent EU workers, too
The NPA has stressed the need for the Government to recognise the importance of permanent EU labour after we leave the EU, following today’s announcement on a new seasonal workers’ scheme.
The pilot scheme will provide visas for up to 2,500 non-EU workers a year to work on fruit and vegetable farms for six months.
Defra Secretary Michael Gove said the Government had ‘listened to the powerful arguments from farmers about the need for seasonal labour to keep the horticulture industry productive and profitable’.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies welcome the fact that the Government has shown it is listening to industry concerns.
But she said: “However, it is important that the conversation now moves onto the need for the wider farming, processing and allied sectors to continue to have access to permanent EU labour after we leave the EU,” she said.
“As our survey of members showed, the UK pig industry is hugely reliant on permanent EU workers to function. We fully support measures to attract more home-grown workers to the sector, but in the short-term we will also continue to stress the need for policies that make EU citizen welcome to live and work in this country.
“Without them, the UK pig sector will not be in a position to grasp the opportunities Brexit might present in the global or domestic markets.”
The NPA’s October 2017 survey of members across the pig industry showed:
Just over a half of respondents employed at least one non-UK worker, with 24% hiring more than a quarter of their labour from overseas.
Around 90% of businesses using non-UK labour employed them on a permanent basis, with 94% of non-UK workers coming from the EU.
64% of those employing EU labour said it had become harder to find EU labour since the vote. None said it had got easier.
Nearly half of those employing EU labour said EU workers they employed were considering leaving the UK due to uncertainty over Brexit.
Notes to editors
1) More information on the NPA’s survey of members about access to labour after we leave the EU can be viewed here
2) The NPAs position on migrant labour can be viewed in our briefing on Brexit’s opportunities and challenges for the pig sector here
3) NPA chief executive Zoe Davies’ spelled out the association’s concerns when she gave evidence to the EFRA committee. Read more here
For more information, contact Zoe Davies Mobile: 07814 448956