A Fair Deal For British Pig Farmers - NPA launches 2019 general election manifesto
The next Government must ensure the UK’s ability to produce high quality pork products is not fatally undermined by double standards in our post-Brexit trading arrangements.
That is one of the key messages in the National Pig Association’s (NPA) election manifesto, which, published today, sets out its demands for a Fair Deal for British Pig Farmers.
“The NPA believes Brexit could offer opportunities for the pig industry,” NPA chairman Richard Lister said. “However, if the needs of pig producers and the wider agricultural sector are ignored in pursuit of other goals, the consequences could be catastrophic for the industry.
“That is why we have put forward a number of policy requirements for the next Government that put common sense and fairness at the heart of the policymaking process.”
The NPA’s key policy asks come under four key themes – avoid a disastrous no deal Brexit, grow the pig industry with supportive Government policies, maintain animal health and welfare standards and retain sufficient access to labour.
Specific pig industry requests under these headings include:
- Fairness in tariffs – if our departure from the EU results in new tariff arrangements, the Government must ensure they are set at a rate that does not open the floodgates to cheap pork imports, while UK producers face large and restrictive tariffs on exports to Europe.
- Equivalent standards - we must not agree to future trade deals that expose us to imports that would be illegal to produce in the UK. The Government must insist that import standards match our own.
- Keeping ASF out - we need better border controls and tougher sanctions on those bringing in meat illegally.
- A fair and proportionate approach to regulation – for example, farrowing crates should not be banned. Farmers who wish to move to alternative systems should be financially supported to enable them to do so.
- Helping pig farmers grow – as a previously unsupported sector, we will need support under a new domestic farm policy that helps producers invest in modern production facilities that deliver good animal health and welfare and reduce our environmental impact.
- Access to EU labour - we need continued access to EU labour, particularly permanent ‘unskilled’ labour for our farms, food processing companies and allied industries.
Mr Lister highlighted the threat of cheap imports as one of the core messages in the manifesto. “The UK pig industry is in a good position to thrive on a global scale if the next Government gets it right and helps us to grow and reach new markets.
“But this industry knows from painful experience – the decision to unilaterally ban sow stalls in 1999 - the devastation that follows when policies hamper domestic producers while inviting in cheaper imports produced to standards that are illegal in this country. The situation resulted in a mass exodus of domestic producers unable to compete in an unfair market. That must not be allowed to happen.
“We are only 54% self-sufficient in pork, and the next Government will have a direct influence over improving or worsening this.”
The other key themes in the manifesto include a more joined-up approach to protecting the pig sector from the huge threat posed by African swine fever (ASF).
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said ASF, currently spreading across Asia and still present in Europe, was currently the biggest threat the UK pig sector faces.
“We have been disappointed so far with the lack of rigour shown by the border authorities to raise awareness of the ASF risk and adopt robust measures to keep the virus out,” she said.
“The next Government must take this threat seriously – before it’s too late.”
Senior policy Ed Barker said the NPA would work tirelessly in the run-up to the December 12 poll to ensure candidates understood the NPA’s position on these critical issues. “We will make sure the pig sector’s voice is heard,” he said.
Notes to editors
You can view the NPA manifesto here
You can view our No Deal Brexit briefing here
You can view our ASF briefing here
You can view the dedicated ASF section on our website here
For more information, contact Ed Barker
Mobile: 07741 263194
NPA warns of perfect storm after Government rejects tariff pleas
NPA-Press-Release Perfect Storm Import Tariff Oct 2019
NPA calls for urgent review of damaging no deal pork tariffs
The NPA has called on the Government to ditch its current no deal tariff proposals for pork, which, as they stand, could force UK producers out of business and export more of our pig production abroad.
In a letter to Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers, NPA chairman Richard Lister expresses ‘grave concerns’ about the tariffs that would apply on imported pork if we leave the EU without a deal and calls for an ‘urgent review’.
Under the proposed tariff regime announced in March, tariffs on pork – applying equally to imports from the EU and the rest of the world – would typically equate to around 3-5%, which would have minimal impact on importers.
This contrasts with the current tariffs of up to 45% in place as a member of the EU that currently protect UK consumers and producers from cheaper, lower standard imports.
To add salt to the wound, in the event of a no deal, UK pork exporters will face the impact of high tariffs on products going to the EU, jeopardising the vital £300m EU pork export market.
Mr Lister pointed out that other farming sectors, such as lamb, beef and poultry, were granted significant tariff protection under the proposals.
Currently, almost all UK pork imports come from the EU. But Mr Lister said: “We fear that under the tariff rates currently proposed, the UK pig sector and consumers would be exposed to significantly cheaper exports from countries like the USA, produced to standards that are not legally permitted in the UK. Previous experience has shown this would force UK pig producers out of business and export more of our production elsewhere.”
With US pork prices currently more than 50p/kg below UK prices, tariffs of just 3-5%, even with shipping costs, could easily be absorbed by American exporters, analysis by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) shows.
The UK pig industry knows from painful experience the consequences of allowing in large volumes of cheaper, lower standard imports. After sow stalls were banned in the UK in 1999, supermarkets continued to import EU pork produced using the system. This unfair competition contributed significantly to the demise of half the UK pig sector.
In his letter to Mrs Villiers, Mr Lister said he understood the Government’s concerns in ensuring food prices remain stable in the event of a no deal Brexit.
But he said: “The present set of proposed tariffs from the Government leave our sector completely exposed to unlimited imports and, given the fact that we would lose a big proportion of our exports to the EU, producers would be going out of business very quickly as lower standard imports overwhelm the market.”
“History has shown that once producers have been put out of business, the damage is irreparable.”
“I understand that the Government has committed to reviewing its tariffs on imports. I urge you, on behalf of every British pig farmer operating to some of the highest standards in the world, to include pork tariffs within that review.”
Notes to editors
You can view the letter here
You can see the NPA’s latest briefing on the impact of Brexit, including the proposed tariff regime, on the pig sector here
For more information, contact Ed Barker Mobile: 07741 263194
Minister admits ASF outbreak likely within a year - NPA demands more urgency
The NPA has called for a more robust approach from Defra and the UK port authorities to keeping disease out of the UK, after a Government Minister admitted an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) is likely within a year.
The startling admission came from Farming Minister George Eustice as he responded to a letter from NPA chairman Richard Lister.
Commenting on the Government’s efforts to keep ASF out of the country, Mr Eustice said: “The UK risk level is currently set at medium, which means an outbreak is expected within a year.”
Mr Eustice said Defra and the Devolved authorities are actively working with UK Border Force to improve intelligence sharing and detect and seize illegal imports and to raise awareness amongst travellers about the risks of bringing in potentially infected animal products.
Yet since an announcement by Defra in July that ASF messaging at airports and ports was being stepped up, the NPA has seen precious little evidence that the policies are being implemented with any rigour.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “We don’t think UK Border Force is taking this seriously enough.
“We are not seeing the posters being displayed with any consistency or prominence at ports and airports and there has been little interest shown in helping Defra to promote these crucial messages.
“The authorities in England are lagging behind the Devolved authorities, which have been far more proactive in displaying posters and checking baggage. For example, checks in Northern Ireland in June resulted in the seizure of 300kgs of illegally imported meat and dairy products and the worrying discovery of the ASF virus in sausages.
“But in England, we haven’t seen any posters at all and Border Force has stated that they do not intend to carry out targeted baggage checks. There are also only two sniffer dogs deployed across the entire country, which is woefully inadequate. We have called for more, but are told it is too expensive.
“If a Government Minister really thinks the virus will be here within a year, it is patently obvious that more resource and effort is needed to keep it out. And Border Force needs to demonstrate that it understands the scale of the threat.”
ASF has wiped out almost half of China’s pig herd since last August, which equates to the entire EU production. An ASF outbreak would have a devastating impact, not only on the UK pig sector, but also on the many families and businesses that rely on rural trade. The Government has estimated it could cost the country £90m – which the NPA believes is a gross underestimation as it does not take into account the loss of export markets, currently worth £470 million a year.
Mr Lister, who keeps pigs in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, added: “Defra’s awareness campaign, run in conjunction with the industry is helping, but there needs to be proper resource invested to ensure all avenues to prevent disease incursion are explored and a greater sense of urgency needs to be injected into the campaign.
“The pig industry is doing everything it can to minimise the risk, including the widely-publicised #MuckFreeTruck campaign, increased biosecurity signage on pig units and contingency planning on farms.
“But if we are going keep this disease out, everyone needs to take responsibility – which is why we need Defra and UK Border Force to take this seriously. It’s our job to stop the virus getting into pigs – but it’s the Government’s job to keep it out of the country.”
Notes to editor
- You can read more about African swine fever and updates on its spread in Asia and Europe in the ASF section on the NPA website
- You can read more about the Government’s ASF poster campaign here
- You can read more about the pig industry #MuckFreeTruck campaign here
- You can read more about the discovery of the ASF virus in Northern Ireland here
For more information, contact Zoe Davies Mobile: 07814 448956
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