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January 2021

Brexit brings UK pork sector to standstill

UK pork processors are experiencing significant issues in exporting products to the EU, which has already brought part of the industry to a complete standstill, risking knock-on impacts on farms.

The widely seen footage of overzealous Dutch inspection officials confiscating ham sandwiches transported by British hauliers is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the UK pig sector is concerned. 

The NPA’s processor members have reported that excessive bureaucracy associated with new paperwork requirements are causing delays at Dover, Calais and other ports. With pork being a perishable product, these delays are making UK shipments unattractive to buyers in the EU, forcing processors to reject shipments and cancel future orders.

Despite the trade deal agreed between the EU and UK just before Christmas, the UK’s formal departure from the EU Customs Union and Single Market was always going to mean additional checks, new labelling and certification requirements and delays at ports. While the full overall impact of the new rules is yet to be felt, as UK export volumes remain lower than normal for the time of year, the UK pig sector is already feeling the effect.

Processors have reported a number of issues, including:

  • Officials at ports in the UK, France, Ireland and the Netherlands are taking a far more stringent approach to assessing paperwork, which in itself appears to be excessive. One load was caught at Calais for 20 hours undergoing vet checks and then rejected upon finally reaching its destination in Germany because of the delay.
  • Additional paperwork is causing major delays for processors – one processor said it took nine hours to prepare the paperwork for one shipment to the EU last week.
  • Another processor reported that when sending product to the Netherlands, each Export Health Certificate (EHC) needed 12 stamps for the English, Dutch and French versions required in duplicate. Therefore, for a 15 tonne load, the vet had to stamp paperwork 72 times. There is no electronic option at present – all EHCs have to be in hard copy
  • Another processor reported that as we are now a third country, new rules require inspectors to check labels on each box in a consignment of pork products meaning that the whole pallet has to be offloaded and broken apart to check the boxes in the middle, adding more time to the process.
  •  The Eurotunnel needs to process 500 lorries an hour but only has the veterinary capacity for 150 an hour which will slow things down even more.
  • The administrative burden of EHCs means that vets are struggling to meet the demand and the costs for exporters have increased.


“We are seeing a bureaucracy overload and it is already having a big impact on the pig sector,” NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said.

“This is partly an inevitable consequence of Brexit – we always knew it would mean more red tape, checks and delays. But there is a political element, too. Why are 30% of all UK consignments to the EU are being checked? This is far more than many other Third Country exporters to the EU - for New Zealand, for example, the figure is 1%.”

Dr Davies explained that the delays were forcing processors to cancel some shipments, with the cull sow trade particularly badly hit. Processors are currently wary of sending shipments out in case they are rejected due to deterioration of product following severe delays.

“The concern is that the situation is only going to get worse as export volumes increase over the coming weeks, putting more pressure on a system that is already buckling,” Dr Davies added.

“For the pig sector, this comes on top of an already very difficult situation with processing plants hit by COVID-19 outbreaks and therefore unable to process pigs at the usual rate, meaning pigs are already staying on farms longer than they otherwise would.”

In the first 10 months of 2020, the UK exported more than 180,000 tonnes of pork to the EU, a vitally important trade for the sector accounting for 44% of UK pork exports.

“If this trade grinds to a standstill, on top of the COVID issues, we are going to see some serious problems across the sector,” Dr Davies said.

“The Government does not appear to think there is a problem. The clear message we are receiving from our processors is that there is – and we want to see some concerted action and political will to speed the processes up on both sides, with greater priority given to perishable products, such as pork.”

While UK products going to the EU are subject to additional checks, the same rules won’t be applied to products coming the other way for some time, as the UK is phasing in its checks.

“While this delay is convenient for a Government that wants to ensure there are no empty shelves in supermarkets, UK producers are being placed at a huge disadvantage and we have absolutely no leverage to convince the EU to change their position. 

“It is clear that the Commission wishes to make Brexit as painful and as messy as possible to prevent any other country from following suit, so we have very little hope of improving things. 

“It would be wonderful however if the Government would emerge from its smug Brexit deal afterglow and accept that we have a situation here that needs to be resolved, and quickly,” Dr Davies added.

Notes to editors

  • You can read more about the various ways EU Exit is affecting the UK pig sector HERE
  • In December, the NPA joined the major UK pork processors and industry organisations in writing to Defra Secretary George Eustice warning of a potential crisis for the meat sector due to the volume of additional red tape and the lack of veterinary resource to process it. Read more HERE


More information 

For more information, contact Zoe Davies 

Mobile: 07814 448956 



November 2020

NPA calls for more urgency from Government to address EU Exit concerns

The NPA is calling for a more proactive and decisive approach from the Government to address a number of outstanding concerns surrounding EU Exit.

With the end of the Transition Period now less than two months away, the NPA is still seeking answers on a long list of critical questions relating to the industry’s ability to trade breeding pigs and pork products post-EU Exit. 

The association continues to work closely with Defra on some of the issues, but, according to chief executive Zoe Davies, there is still a lack of understanding within the Department and across Government about the severity of the situation.

“While we are making progress in some areas, time is now running short and we need more urgency and engagement from across Government before it is simply too late,” she said.

“As things stand, on top of the growing disruption caused by COVID-19, the UK pig sector faces the very real prospects of being unable to continue the vitally important trade in breeding stock to the EU and of severe delays, added costs and reduced market access for our pork exports. The impact could be devastating.”

Dr Davies pointed out that in many cases, the issues will affect the industry whether or not we have a deal in place with the EU on January 1, 2021. The main areas of concern include:

  • The inability to export any breeding stock due to a lack of necessary Border Control Posts (BCPs) at key EU seaports. Imports could also be affected from July.
  • Delays at ports after January and lack of prioritisation for fresh food, jeopardising short shelf life product exports.
  • A lack of veterinary resources to carry out all the additional checks required on animal and meat exports.
  • A lack of clarity about new requirements and authorisations needed for hauliers transporting breeding pigs.
  • A lack of clarity on the requirements for movements of product and live pigs between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Dr Davies added: “It is extremely frustrating. As an association and as an industry, we always try to be prepared and remain optimistic, and still believe there is time to resolve at least some of these issues and minimise the negative impacts the new trading arrangements will create. 

“We will continue to strive to get solutions, but we need better engagement and answers from across Government and fast. Our message is that we are facing a very real threat to the viability of the UK pig sector and we must do all we can, collectively, to avoid serious disruption.”

Notes to editors 

In more detail, the specific areas of concern include:

  • No EU Border Control Posts (BCPs) for live animal exports: BCPs will be needed to check everything exported after January 1. There are currently no BCPs at any seaports nearby that will accept live animals (this includes France, Belgium and the Netherlands). Unless that changes, we will be unable to export breeding stock to the EU, which will not only impact the viability of our breeding companies but have a knock-on impact on the productivity and biosecurity of the entire herd.
  • Support with BCPs: Defra has left it to the industry to engage with EU ports to encourage them to register as BCPs and put in the required facilities. There has been no interest from the Government in helping us engage at either Commission or Member State level.
  • No BCPs for live imports: There are no seaport BCPs in the UK at present either. Defra has pointed out that, as it is phasing in import checks, these won’t be needed until July. However, we will need to know well in advance what the exact requirements will be for testing and inspection, while any port operating as a BCP will require time to put the necessary infrastructure in place.
  • Delays at ports: The extra bureaucracy and checks required could result in long queues at ports, particularly in Kent. Whilst they have prepared some plans for hold-ups, currently livestock and meat are not on the priority list for movement through Dover – which is completely unworkable.
  • Veterinary resources: There will potentially be a requirement for 500% more certification checks on live animals and meat products. We are still waiting for an indication of whether or not the significant extra veterinary resource required can be met.
  • Haulier concerns: Hauliers will require separate authorisations and qualifications in both the EU and UK. There is still a complete lack of clarity as to how companies will be able to register and hold multiple authorisations without adding huge cost. 
  • GB-NI movements:  There is still a total lack of information on the movement of goods and animals from Great Britain to Northern Ireland on, for example, the level of checks, the potential for delays or detail on goods deemed ‘at risk’.
  • Pork from ROI and processed in NI: We are concerned that meat from pigs coming from the Republic of Ireland (ROI) but processed in Northern Ireland can bear the NI origin mark and flow into GB.
  • COVID concerns: We have seen no modelling from Defra on how COVID-19 outbreaks could impact on staffing levels at ports both on the UK and French sides – and what contingency plans are being put in place.

More information 

For more information, contact Zoe Davies 

Mobile: 07814 448956 



November 2019

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

More information

For more information, contact Ed Barker

Mobile: 07741 263194



October 2019

NPA warns of perfect storm after Government rejects tariff pleas

NPA-Press-Release Perfect Storm Import Tariff Oct 2019


September 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

More information

For more information, contact Ed Barker Mobile: 07741 263194 



September 2019

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

More information

For more information, contact Zoe Davies Mobile: 07814 448956 



May 2019

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.”

More information

For more information, contact Rebecca Veale  07551 155654 


May 2019

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
proper answers.”

More information
For more information, contact Richard Lister – 07734 162883
or Lizzie Wilson – 07790 117091 Email:


March 2019

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."

More information 

For more information, contact Ed Barker Mobile: 07741 263194 



February 2019

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.”