Key retailers commit to backing British pork
The vast majority of the UK’s major retailers have committed to backing British pork, in response to an open letter from the NPA calling for their support.
All the big retailers have now responded to the letter sent by NPA chairman Rob Mutimer a few weeks ago urging them to prioritise British pork over EU product.
They have generally sought to reassure the pig sector that they are backing the industry, with continued commitments to British pork and ongoing efforts to address the labour shortage across the supply chain and to ease the pig backlog.
Mr Mutimer called on retailers to help resolve the pig backlog by not turning to cheaper EU pork, particularly where it diverts essential butchery staff away from UK product.
“We are also aware that some previously supportive retailers are now considering moving over to EU pork because it is much cheaper,” Mr Mutimer said.
Falling EU prices have made imported pork more attractive to retailers, and official Government trade data suggest UK pork import volumes have been increasing since the summer, after being well below 2020 levels in the first part of the year.
Describing the continuing impact of the backlog of pigs on farms and warning of the prospects of more welfare culling, Mr Mutimer said: “I am therefore asking, on behalf of my members, for you to help us by prioritising British pork through the plants and diverting butchery staff back to British pigs so we can get the throughputs back to where they need to be and start reducing the backlog to a sustainable level.”
Key points from the responses:
As I am sure you are aware, Aldi has a long-standing commitment to supporting British farmers who are at the heart of our supply chain. We are fully committed to continuing to back British farming and British farmers all year round, despite ongoing cost challenges and increased price competitiveness within the market.
ASDA is committed to assisting our pork supplier and their British farming suppliers in this difficult period for the sector. We have highlighted British pork product to help drive awareness and consumption with our customers.
We have a British Shoulder joint product on feature end which is the main purchasing point in store. We hope to encourage more customers to pick up British pork through this positioning.
We’ve increased our Extra Special range (which is British pork) by 50% for this September. The Extra Special products are selling over 10 tonnes per week. This will be added to with two new lines: Extra Special Ribeye Steaks with Mushroom and Madeira Sauce and Extra Special Pulled Hog Roast Joint.
Looking into the remainder of 2021 we have developed strong promotion plan and have specific activity with a targeted Christmas promotional plan.
I would like to take the opportunity to reassure you that Co-op has a long standing, ongoing commitment to British farmers, farming & food, and in specific relation to the pig industry, ALL of the Co-op Pork supply chain is 100% British.
As we move towards Christmas, we will be looking to increase our British demand with seasonal lines – however, we do recognise that the biggest challenge is the labour shortages that our supplier & the industry is facing. Although to be clear, we will not deviate from our 100% British commitment for our own pork supply in order to deliver Christmas products for our customers.
I would like to reassure you that at Lidl GB we are committed to investing in the British food and farming sector and championing British farmers, which is evident through our endorsement of the National Farmers Union Back British Farming Charter. We have strong commitments to back the British farming sector now and into the future, as such, we source our everyday listed fresh Pork from British farmers and currently have no plans to change this.
As you know, from a Morrisons' perspective we are 100% British on fresh pork and this will not change. We also would like to reassure you that all our abattoirs and boning halls only process and butcher British pigs / pork. We are doing everything we can at the moment to support the British pig industry.
You will be aware that, with the exception of our Continental Charcuterie ranges, all Pork sourced by M&S for the Food Group is British, with Outdoor Bred being our minimum sourcing standard.
We continue to work with our supply base to try and find innovative solutions to the current industry challenges.
Sainsburys are committed to supporting British pork, with 100% of our fresh pork being British, which we have upheld since 2013.
Sainsburys and our processors are working together to ensure we sell as much pork as possible, having frequent conversations to ensure we have the highest throughput of pigs achievable; these include but are not limited to: turning off slow labour intensive small volume processing lines to maximise output, removal of netting of some of our joints and running promotions where relevant.
Sainsburys will continue to work collaboratively with industry to support the British pig sector.
Tesco is the biggest seller of British pig meat in the UK. Over the last 18 months we have worked closely alongside our suppliers to respond to significantly higher demand for bacon, pork, sausages and cooked meats, and our sales of British pork have never been higher.
We are working closely with our suppliers to ensure that British product is being processed to the maximum capacity in the abattoirs. Currently, the lack of skilled butchery in the UK means that we cannot get any more material through the abattoirs.
Tesco removing EU pigmeat from shelves will not result in more British pigs being processed to help clear the backlog on farms. Only the processors finding more butchers will achieve this.
Waitrose, which is generally a strong supporter of British pork, said it ‘appreciates the challenging situation the sector is in’ and has offered to speak to the NPA directly.
Mr Mutimer said: “We are pleased to see the retailers reaffirming their commitment to British pork and their desire to work with the industry to address labour shortages in the responses we have received.
“Despite the Government’s welcome support package for the pig sector, we are nowhere near to being out of the woods. In fact, we remain deep in crisis, with thousands of pigs backed up on farms and pig farmers still seeing no improvement.
“With farmers also facing an unprecedented financial crisis, the support of retailers the entire supply chain and of the British public will be critical to the survival of the British pig sector.
“We will continue to monitor the level of British pork in supermarkets closely to ensure the retailers keep to their commitments.”
Notes to editors
NPA calls for butchery visas to avert British pig industry meltdown
The NPA has called for the Government to extend its offer of short-term visas to butchery workers to help avert the collapse of the British pig sector.
On Sunday, Defra announced that up to 5,500 poultry workers will be able to work in the UK ahead of Christmas 2021, delivered through the Temporary Workers route. This followed the Department for Transport’s announcement that up to 5,000 drivers will be able to come to theUK to transport food and fuel in the run up to Christmas.
But there were no measures for the pig sector, despite repeated requests from processors and the pig industry for short-term visas, as a welfare cull on farms looms ever larger due to a chronic shortage of butchers in pork processing plants.
The backlog is now well over 100,000 pigs with some farmers having run out of space and many more at or close to the limit. While some processors are working with the industry to reduce the backlog, preparations are being made for a welfare cull, which is now more likely to have to happen on farms.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “We were extremely disappointed that the Government has ignored repeated requests for temporary visas for butchers, despite the overwhelming evidence of the impact this is having across the supply chain.
“We desperately need those visas, even for a short period of time to help us get rid of the backlog. This is not just about saving Christmas, which seems to be the Government’s sole focus, but about protecting pig welfare and averting an environmental disaster.
“If we don’t get the help we need, it is true that consumers will be denied their Christmas favourites, like pigs in blankets. But we are also facing the long-term decline of British pig production and we need the Government to wake up to this now.”
With British pig producers facing financial crisis, due to record costs of production, the NPA is warning of a significant contraction of UK pork production, thereby increasing our reliance on EU imports. A number of pig farmers have left the industry in recent months, with many more reducing their herd size.
The NPA is also asking retailers to play their part in reducing the backlog by prioritising British product over imported.
“There is a lot the retailers can do to help ease the backlog, and we believe that they have a responsibility to do so given their commitments to British pork,” Dr Davies added. “We urge them to prioritise British produce in processing plants rather than relying increasingly on imports, as this will get more pigs moving through the chain. We believe our loyal British customers would be supportive of this.
“In particular, we are concerned that some imports are coming into the UK, being butchered here and taking up valuable labour resource, which is not helping move more of our pigs through the supply chain.
“We welcome efforts being made by some processors to move pigs more quickly - but we would like them to ensure the financial burden is shared equally across the supply chain.”
Notes to editors
1) You can read regular updates on the pig industry situation in our crisis blog HERE
2) The NPA’s Pig Industry Group discussed the crisis at its latest meeting. You can read more HERE
3) The NPA is one of a number of food and farming industry bodies calling on the Government to introduce a 12-month COVID Recovery Visa. You can read more HERE
Government holds the key to save our pigs from destruction - say UK pig farmers
Time is running out for the UK pig sector, according to the National Pig Association, which has urged the Government to take immediate action to address the labour crisis crippling the food and farming sector.
The chronic shortage of labour affecting meat processing plants is causing a growing backlog of pigs on farms. There are currently an estimated 85,000 extra pigs on farms across the UK, a number increasing by approximately 15,000 per week and farmers are running out of space fast.
The pig industry has taken a battering over the past year or so, as a ‘perfect storm’ of COVID-19, Brexit and record costs of production has already forced some to quit the industry.
While empty retail shelves and product shortages are becoming increasingly commonplace and Christmas specialities, such as pigs in blankets are already under threat, the knock-on effect of the staff shortages is having a devastating effect on the country’s pig farmers, according to NPA chief executive Zoe Davies.
The first half of 2021 was the pig sector’s worst financial performance on record on the back of record costs of production. Producers lost £116 million* over the first six months of this year, according to AHDB estimates, which is clearly not sustainable. There is no sign of any immediate let up in the financial pressures the industry is facing.
“We are already seeing producers up and down the country getting out of pigs or cutting down on numbers because they cannot sustain these losses any longer,” Dr Davies said.
“The pig backlog is now creating further problems for farmers, forcing them to find extra cash for expensive feed and incur penalties for selling overweight pigs. Many are now being forced to face the real prospect of having to destroy pigs because there is simply nowhere for them to go.
“Some of the conversations I have had over the past few weeks have been heart-breaking, with many producers getting desperate and not sure what the future holds.
“Without immediate Government intervention, more producers will be pushed over the edge. 22,000 sows have already been lost from the national herd this year, and this is just the start. Sadly we are expecting a serious contraction of the UK pig industry as a result, largely of the smaller independent farmers who are most at risk.”
COVID Recovery Visa
The NPA was one of the food and farming organisations behind a report by Grant Thornton, which called on Ministers to introduce a 12-month COVID Recovery Visa to help alleviate the food supply workforce shortages.
The report estimates there are more than 500,000 vacancies across food and drink businesses and sets out how the COVID Recovery Visa could be a vital short-term measure to enable food businesses to access foreign labour while the economy recovers from COVID-19.
Ministers’ initial responses have not been promising. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told business leaders foreign labour only offered ‘a short-term, temporary solution’ and urged employers to help the 'many UK-based workers’ who need to find new employment opportunities’, according to the Financial Times.
Dr Davies said this sort of response highlighted a deep lack of understanding about the labour crisis. “A short-term solution is exactly what we need right now. The pork supply chain has tried for many years to recruit more workers from the domestic workforce, but there aren’t the number of trained workers out there to fill the vacancies that exist now,” she said.
“And suggesting that we can access people coming out of the furlough scheme is completely naïve – for a start we cannot wait until the end of September – this crisis is happening now. In addition, many of these people do not live where food manufacturing occurs, they aren’t skilled so would take time to train and I doubt that many would want to work in an abattoir.
“Unless the Government intervenes soon to help alleviate the labour shortage, more producers will quit – and they won’t come back.
“I cannot believe that this is what the British public voted for when they voted for Brexit. The irony of having to import more pork from the EU as we watch our home market collapse is astounding.”
- The estimated £116m half-year industry loss figure is based on Defra GB pig slaughter numbers and AHDB average estimated net pig producer margins, using average physical performance figures and costs.
NPA seeks Government action to avert pig sector labour crisis
The pig sector is edging closer to a major crisis as staff shortages hit pork production, causing backlogs on farms and gaps on supermarket shelves, the NPA has warned.
The association, which is seeking urgent action from Government, has learned that major pork processors are cutting throughput, some by up to 25%, meaning producers are once again having to keep pigs on farm for longer than would usually be the case.
The shortage is being driven by a combination of the new stricter rules on EU workers coming to the UK, furlough, the expansion of jobs in other sectors and the ‘pingdemic’ that has resulted in more than 600,000 people per week being told to isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app.
Labour shortages are being felt across the entire pig sector, including on farms. Pork processing plants have been reporting absenteeism of 10-16% even before COVID-related absences, which the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said is now accounting for, in some cases, a further 5-10% of staff that are self-isolating.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “In some plants, it is reaching critical stage, with production being cut by a quarter and pigs being ‘rolled’ into the following week, meaning backlogs are starting to build on farms.
“We are hearing that this is not just a short-term issue resulting from COVID self-isolation. EU staff have gone home and are not coming back or have gone to find alternative employment.
“If this continues, it will only be a matter of weeks before we see serious problems on farms. This is the last thing our members need as they are only just getting over the last backlog, which saw more than 100,000 pigs backed up on farm, and are currently coping with record feed costs, so are already struggling to find funds to keep feeding pigs.
“The frustration is that demand for British pork is currently strong, but pork plants are struggling to meet it because they do not have enough people to do the work.
“This will lead to empty retail shelves, which is likely to result in more imports at a time when consumers are seeking great British pork more than ever before.”
The Government has promised that key workers from certain sectors will not have to self-isolate after close contact with positive cases, but the industry is still waiting for a definitive list.
The NPA, along with other industry bodies has been pressing the Government to take steps to alleviate the shortages, but so far these calls have fallen on deaf ears. “The Government is aware of the severity of the problem but appears unwilling to act,” Dr Davies said.
The NPA is now encouraging its members to write to their MPs asking for ‘urgent intervention and action to help tackle the unique set of challenges that we face’.
MPs will be asked to put pressure on Ministers for support in several areas:
- Call for processing and pig farm staff who have been double vaccinated to be allowed to take a daily test and avoid self-isolation as long as the test proves negative.
- Providing businesses access to EU seasonal workers from the EU as allowed in the horticulture, fruit and poultry sectors. A temporary relaxation of visa rules for specific roles to allow more foreign labour into the UK would help.
- The Home Office to add meat processing workers and butchers to the Shortage Occupation List.
- A sensible analysis by the Treasury to determine which of the approximately 1.5 million furloughed workers may be suitable for employment in the food sector, and then helping them get back work as soon as possible.
- A compensation package from Defra for those in the industry most heavily impacted by this on-going crisis, similar to what has already been delivered by other devolved administrations.
“As a sector we do and will always try to find solutions ourselves, but yet again, due to an accumulation of issues, this is out of our control. The entire pig sector is very close to crisis point and we need urgent and clear action from Government to address this crippling labour shortage,” Dr Davies added.
Notes to editors
- More than 100,000 pigs were backed up on farm in the early months of this year due to a ‘perfect storm’ of events, including Brexit restrictions on exports, pork plant closures due to COVID-19 and the suspension of exports to China from some plants.
- Pig backlogs result in higher feeds prices and overweight penalties for producers, plus major logistical difficulties and potential welfare issues.
For more information, contact Zoe Davies
Mobile: 07814 448956
YNPA Challenge 21 raises nearly £3,000 for charity - and counting
Members and supporters of the Young NPA covered more than 1,500 miles during a June charity challenge, raising nearly £3,000 - and counting - for the Farming Community Network (FCN).
The YNPA Challenge 21 ran for three weeks from the start of June, with those taking part logging their miles covered by foot, bike or, in some cases, hoof.
The initial targets to collectively cover 883 miles and raise £883 (representing the distance between the NPA ‘Put British Pork on Your Fork’ banners from the furthest north to south and east to west) were comfortably passed two weeks into the challenge, before a final push took the total mileage to 1,468.
Some NPA allied industry members sponsored a ‘Sunday Funday’, promising a donation for every mile covered by the team – which was a great incentive to get out there and pedal/run/walk further!
There were some impressive individual efforts, including Claire Scott, who covered the most miles with 116.27, followed by Jemma Stephenson with 88, Anna Longthorp 87.5, including a 20-mile bike ride with son, Richard in tow, and Kate Moore, 85.6, including a mammoth 50 miles on the first ‘Sunday Funday’.
The money raised via the Just Giving website has been boosted by some generous donations from NPA allied industry members, including:
- Zoetis donated £500
- Lallemand donated £300
- Quality Equipment sponsored the first Sunday Funday, doubling the miles covered that day to the value of £319
- Zarkos Associates provided a £5 incentive for signing up on the first day, raising £120, and sponsored the final Sunday Funday raising a further £236.70
YNPA vice-chair Jack Bosworth thanked everyone who had taken part and the sponsors for their generous donations. "It has been a fantastic effort – there has been some great community spirit within YNPA,” he said.
Fellow vice-chair Jon McKechnie added: “I think everyone has enjoyed it, even though it has been hard work at times, we have smashed our original targets for both miles covered and money raised!
“We still want to raise more, so, if you haven’t donated yet, please support a great team and a great cause!”
FCN is a voluntary organisation and charity that supports farmers and families within the farming community through difficult times. They have over 400 volunteers that provide practical and pastoral support and also operate a confidential helpline (03000 111 999) open 7am to 11pm every day of the year as well as an e-helpline ().
Alex Phillimore, marketing and communications manager at FCN, said: “We would like to thank everyone for their time and effort in raising funds for FCN. COVID has presented logistical challenges around fundraising, but we’ve been blown away by the novel and innovative ways people have found to continue supporting our work.
“The YNPA have blown past their initial fundraising target and the generous donations from allied industry members as part of this fundraiser are also very much appreciated. This will help us to continue supporting farming families across England and Wales during a challenging period for our industry.”
Notes to editors
- To see more information on the YNPA Challenge 21 and donate, go to: Go to: https://www.justgiving.
- See the hashtag #YNPAChallenge21 on Twitter for more on the challenge.
- NPA members are currently displaying #PutBritishPorkOnYourFork banners across the country. Follow @GBPork on Twitter to find out more
- See the PutBritishPorkOnYourFork website, which is highlighting to consumers the many reasons to choose British pork.
For more information, contact Rebecca Veale
Mobile: 07551 155654 Email:
New website urges consumers to #PutBritishPorkOnYourFork
The NPA has launched a new consumer-facing website to reinforce the messages behind the #PutBritishPorkOnYourFork banner campaign.
The website - https://putporkonyourfork.net - explains the many benefits of British pork, including its ‘unique diversity of production systems to meet all price points’.
It sets out how British pork is responsibly produced, including a 63% reduction in antibiotic usage since 2015, environmentally sustainable and produced to high welfare standards, all independently assured and robustly audited.
Above all, the website highlights how British pork is a ‘tasty, nutritious and healthy’ option, pointing users to the Love Pork website (https://www.lovepork.co.uk) and a food gallery to promote some fantastic recipes.
Users are invited to show their support for the British pig sector in various ways, including looking out for the Red Tractor and RSPCA Assured logos and Union Flag on packaging and making sure they buy British rather than EU pork.
“If in doubt, ask! If there is no clear indication of where your pork comes from, for example when you are in the local butchers or eating out or buying food to take out, ask where it comes from,” it says.
Consumers are also encouraged to write to their local MPs to urge them to support British pork, including putting pressure on the Government to prioritise British produce in its public procurement policy.
The website provides consumers with an opportunity to contact retailers to ask them to source more British pork.
“As the website says, all consumers should be able to choose British pork if they want to,” NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said.
“Buying British doesn't mean that it is automatically more expensive, and by supporting British farmers you are making a better choice environmentally and for pig welfare.”
The campaign will be backed up by media and social media activity. For example, Twitter users can tweet retailers asking them to stock more British pork, using the hashtag #PutBritishPorkOnYourFork and tagging the @GBpork account.
The NPA has sent out more than 100 #PutBritishPorkOnYourFork banners to producers, who have been displaying them in prominent locations across the country.
The campaign was launched on the back of the ‘Perfect Storm’ that hit the pig sector in the autumn of 2020 and early part of this year that included major COVID- and Brexit-related disruption, falling prices and record costs of production.
Dr Davies said: “This has been a tough time for British pork producers. We have got a great story to tell and we want to reach out to consumers, retailers and Government to tell them what a fantastic job our pig farmers do and why they should always #PutBritishPorkOnYourFork!”
Norfolk outdoor producer elected as new NPA chair
Norfolk outdoor pig producer Rob Mutimer has been elected as the new chairman of the National Pig Association (NPA).
Mr Mutimer, who runs a 750-sow unit producing pigs for the Waitrose supply chain, alongside a retail and wholesale butchery business with his wife, Helen, was elected by the NPA board on Tuesday (March 23). Serving for a three-year term, he replaces Yorkshire producer Richard Lister, who stands down after six years in the role.
Mr Mutimer, who has served as the NPA’s vice-chair for the past three years, will have two new vice-chairs, reflecting the move to combine the NPA’s producer and allied industry groups into a single Pig Industry Group.
The producer vice-chair will be Yorkshire producer Phil Stephenson, who chaired the NPA’s Producer Group for a number of years.
The allied industry vice-chair will be Hugh Crabtree, who runs Reading-based pig ventilation control system supplier, Farmex, and previously chaired the Allied Industry Group.
Mr Mutimer, who is a member of the AHDB Pork Board, said he was honoured to be elected to the role at a critical time for the pig sector.
“The work of the NPA has never been more important than it is now as the industry faces up to challenges on multiple fronts.
“I will aim to ensure the association continues to punch above its weight as it fights the industry’s corner and we all work towards building a thriving and sustainable pig industry of the future.
“I am really pleased to have Phil and Hugh, who bring vast experience and knowledge to the role, working alongside me. Along with the newly-elected Pig Industry Group, we will all do our best to support the hard-working and hugely effective NPA team in their vital work.”
“I also want to pay tribute to my predecessor Richard Lister and thank him the fantastic leadership he has shown over the years.”
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies congratulated Mr Mutimer and his two vice-chairs on their appointments.
“I am very happy that we have such a strong team to help support NPA staff with whatever challenges await over the next three years,” she said.
The NPA Board met after the first meeting of the NPA’s new 17-strong PIG, following the results of the NPA elections which were announced earlier this month.
Notes to editors
The NPA recently announced the results of elections to its Pig Industry Group (PIG). You can see who made it onto the PIG HERE
For more information, contact Zoe Davies
Mobile: 07814 448956
NPA welcomes constructive discussions as pig sector stands at critical point
The NPA has welcomed Defra’s support in addressing the ‘perfect storm’ of events that have left the pig sector in its most critical state for decades, but has warned there is still much to do to avert a crisis.
Defra Farming Minister Victoria Prentis chaired a roundtable event on Tuesday afternoon, which was also attended by Secretary of State George Eustice, senior Defra officials and representatives from the NPA, processors, retailers, AHDB and the Devolved Administrations.
The roundtable was held at the request of NPA chairman Richard Lister to discuss the series of events that has seen thousands of pigs build up on farms due mainly to a combination of COVID-19 problems in pork plants and export disruption since early January.
“This was a very constructive meeting and we are very grateful for how seriously both Ministers and the department are taking this,” NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said.
“They were fully aware of the issues and we were able to raise our concerns and discuss what could be done at Departmental level, but also right across the supply chain in terms of sourcing more British pork to prevent what could turn into a very serious situation for the pig sector.
“Of course, we now need to turn these positive discussions into action, but we were very encouraged by what both Defra and retailers had to offer.”
Mr Lister, who farms pigs in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, began by outlining the ‘unique set of circumstances which have created the current perfect storm we face’.
He explained how COVID-19 problems in processing plant, coupled with a lack of China re-certification for several abattoirs and Brexit issues, have created a backlog of in excess of 100,000 pigs on farm.
“The net effect of this has been that many more pigs need to be cared for and provided with increasingly expensive feed and straw, resulting in rapidly declining cashflows and mounting losses for producers. The backlog is growing and pig farming is at its most critical state for 20 years,” he told the meeting.
It is estimated that, on average, UK producers are losing around £20 on each pig they produce
“Whilst we have farm contingency plans in place to cope with short term difficulties in moving livestock, these plans cannot be sustainable in the face of continuing and further backlogs,” Mr Lister said.
These comments were reinforced by the striking findings of a recent NPA members survey illustrating the problems producers are facing:
- 86% of producers reported having pigs ‘rolled’ by processors, held over to a later date, therefore having to keep them on farm for longer than would usually be the case.
- 44% said this was a regular occurrence.
- 88% of producers are already or expect to be in a loss-making situation soon
- 84% said this situation was having a negative impact on mental health.
The processors, represented by British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) pigmeat committee Chairman Andrew Saunders, outlined the issues they had faced related to Brexit and COVID, but stressed that regaining access to China was the single most effective way to resolve the current issues.
Dr Davies agreed that China was important for some, but said that this would take time, which was something that we did not have. She reiterated that we needed to find alternative solutions and fast. Recognising the need, Defra Ministers encouraged processors to look for interim alternatives.
“Retailers present were also supportive and said that demand for British pork was currently strong, so if processors could provide the product, they would sell it,” Dr Davies said.
“Whilst the biggest demand was for bacon, which is something that British pig farmers cannot produce enough of, one helpfully suggested that we ask AHDB to look at national carcase balance to see which cuts could benefit from further promotion.”
Mr Lister added: “This is a really important first step – and we are really grateful for Defra’s on-going support.
“This is a complex issue to which we knew there would be no single solution or we would have resolved it by now.
“There is clearly plenty still to be addressed, but the key message we took from this constructive meeting is simple: we will only find real solutions if all parties - producers, processors, retailers, trade bodies and Government - are prepared to put self-interest aside and work together for the good of the Great British Pig Industry.”
For more information, contact Zoe Davies
Mobile: 07814 448956
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
For more information, contact Zoe Davies
Mobile: 07814 448956
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 ac