Brexit negotiations must not ignore fundamental importance of EU labour - NPA
The fundamental importance of EU labour to sectors like pig production must not be forgotten as the Government forges ahead with its Brexit plans, the National Pig Association (NPA) has warned.
Prime Minister Theresa May has today outlined her priorities for the Brexit negotiations, including controlling the numbers of people coming to the UK from Europe.
She signalled the UK will leave the Single Market and full membership of the EU Customs Union, while seeking to retain ‘frictionless trade’ with the EU via a Free Trade Agreement and forging new trading relationships elsewhere.
The NPA has responded to the speech by outlining its top three Brexit priorities. These are:
- Retaining sufficient access to EU labour
- Retaining tariff-free access for exports to the EU market
- Ensuring pork imports are produced to equivalent standards
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said, while the nature of future trade arrangements will have a huge impact on the viability of UK pig sector, currently the industry’s biggest concern is access to labour.
“Without EU labour there will be no British pig industry as we know it,” she said.
“We understand why immigration is going go to be a priority for Mrs May but, along with many other sectors, we fear this could result in serious unintended consequences if politics triumphs over economic reality.
“We are heavily reliant on EU labour on our farms, in our processing plants and across the wider industry, to produce British pigmeat, which is so highly valued in our home and export markets. We must do everything we can to retain that access.”
Dr Davies welcomed the extra clarity around Single Market access and Mrs May’s comments on a suitable transition period for new Brexit arrangements.
“It is now absolutely vital for our sector that we secure tariff-free access to the EU market, and also some sort of transitional arrangement whilst trade negotiations are conducted. Our pig producers must be protected,” she said.
“It is equally essential that any new trade arrangements, for example, with the US, do not result in the UK being flooded with cheaper pigmeat produced to lower standards than permitted in the UK. Equivalence of standards is an NPA priority.”
A recent NPA survey showed 58 per cent of businesses across the pig supply chain employed at least one migrant worker, while nearly half would not survive or would be forced to make changes to how they operated without migrant labour.
In a recent interview, the chief executive of Cranswick, one of the UK’s biggest pork processors, said between 35-65 per cent of his staff were foreign workers, predominantly from Europe. He predicted the UK food and drinks sector would ‘grind to a halt without overseas workers’.
NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson said the fall in the value of the pound, effectively cutting UK wages relative to those on offer in other member states, was already having an impact on the availability of staff for the pig industry.
Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom suggested at the recent Oxford Farming Conference that the Government would consider introducing seasonal migrant worker schemes for the agricultural sector.
But Mrs Wilson said the pig sector needed stronger guarantees. She said: “We are making the case in the strongest possible terms to Government that, any immigration policies put in place, must not jeopardise our access to permanent workers, both skilled and unskilled, who want to live and work in the UK.
“And it is not just the policies we put in place. This is also about the rhetoric around Brexit and the messages we send out to EU workers.
“On behalf of the UK pig sector, we continue to welcome them with open arms.”
Notes to editors
- The results of the NPA migrant labour survey can be seen here
- Cranswick chief executive Adam Couch’s interview with the Telegraph can be seen here
- Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom’s comments at the Oxford Farming Conference can be seen here
- NPA chairman Richard Lister has joined forces with the poultry sector to warn Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill the nation’s ability to produce food will be undermined by a lack of access to EU labour. You can see the full story here
- The NPA has secured a meeting with Brexit Minister David Jones in Downing Street on February 8.
For further information, please contact:
Lizzie Wilson, NPA policy services officer
Mobile: 07790 117091 Email:
NPA welcomes report showing significant decline in sales of antibiotics for pigs
The National Pig Association (NPA) has welcomed encouraging new data confirming a significant reduction in sales of antibiotics for use on pig farms.
The Government has today published the latest UK-VARSS report revealing antibiotic sales data for 2015, showing the livestock sector is well on course to reach its overall target set for 2018.
The headline figure is an overall 9 per cent reduction, to 404 tonnes, in sales of antibiotics sold for use in animals, including companion animals, compared with 2014. This represents a four-year low.
The figures show the pig sector played a major part in bringing about that overall reduction. Sales of products licensed for both pigs and poultry were down 23 tonnes to 212 tonnes, a 10 per cent drop.
Sales of products licensed for pigs only were down an even more impressive 24 per cent, a 16 tonne reduction to 50 tonnes, the biggest fall across all the sectors. Overall sales for antibiotic use in food-producing animals dropped 10 per cent from 62 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) to 56mg/kg.
This continues a ten-year downward trend and puts the UK on track to reach its 50mg/kg target by 2018. Sector specific targets are due to be agreed next year.
The VARSS report also showed a drop in sales of the highest priority antibiotics that are critically important for humans. Sales of these made up just over 1 per cent of all antibiotics sold for use in animals in 2015.
NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies said: “We are encouraged by these figures, which show the pig sector is pulling its weight and is taking the challenge of reducing and refining antibiotic usage seriously.
“We fully expect to see further reductions in 2016 and are committed to meeting the challenge of new targets that come our way. We will continue to press for these to be workable and proportionate.
“Meanwhile, we will continue to push forward the key principles of our Antibiotic Stewardship Programme to drive further change.”
The report contained more good news for the pig industry. It highlighted the work the pig industry is doing to collect on-farm usage data via the electronic eMB-Pigs database.
NPA senior policy advisor Dr Georgina Crayford reiterated the need for any farmers who have not yet done so to upload their data.
“Sales data can only tell us so much. Entering data onto eMB-Pigs is necessary to give us a more detailed understanding of the volume of antibiotics used on farm and how they are used. This, in turn, will help us agree reasonable reduction targets next year.”
The VARSS report also showed the results of research on resistance in E. coli isolated from pigs in 2015. The NPA has some concern about the findings of ESBL-producing E.coli.
But Dr Crayford added: “We are comforted by the fact that ESBL genes found in E.coli from animals have in the past been different to the genes found in ESBL E.coli in human clinical cases, highlighting that the transfer of resistance from animals to humans is not a major concern (see notes to editors).”
“We are equally encouraged to see little to no resistance to 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones, critically important classes of antibiotics for human health, in Salmonella isolated from pigs.”
Dr Crayford said the VARSS report highlighted progress being made in reducing antibiotic use on pig farms but also contained pointers for the future.
“When it comes to setting further targets for the pig sector it is important to note that, while we’re committed to using antibiotics responsibly, reductions in antibiotic use will not necessarily result in a reduction in bacterial resistance.
The key is to ensure that further development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) does not happen. “We must also ensure that, as we take further steps to reduce antibiotic usage, we do not compromise the health and welfare of our livestock.”
Notes to editors
1) UK Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance (VARSS) report is published annually by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. You can view the 2015 report here https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-environment-foodruralaffairs
2) See the NPA’s press release, published at the start of World Antibiotic Awareness Week (Nov 14-20) on progress being made in implementing its Antibiotic Stewardship Programme.
3) This paper, published in September 2014, shows ESBL genes found in E.coli from animals have in the past been different to the genes found in ESBL E.coli in human clinical cases.
For further information please contact:
Dr Georgina Crayford, NPA senior policy adviser Mobile: 07551 155654
Pig industry stepping up to the antibiotic challenge
The UK pig industry is stepping up to the antibiotic challenge on a number of fronts, the National Pig Association (NPA) has revealed, as the spotlight falls once again on the issue.
Excellent progress is being made in implementing the NPA’s Antibiotic Stewardship Programme, which, published in May, sets out a framework for reducing and refining antibiotic usage in the pig sector.
It includes key strands on recording antibiotic usage, education across the supply chain and responsible use of medication on farms.
Survey confirms pig industry reliance on EU labour as Brexit fears loom
One in five farms and businesses connected to the pig industry would struggle to survive without migrant labour, an NPA survey has indicated.
A further one in four would have to significantly alter how they operated if the supply of migrant workers, primarily from the EU, was cut off, the survey showed.
NPA calls for proper controls on soaring Forest of Dean feral wild boar population
The National Pig Association (NPA) is calling for more concerted efforts to control feral wild boar in the Forest of Dean in response to the threat the rising population poses to commercial pigs.
The NPA is joining forces with the Deer Initiative to host a wild boar summit in January to discuss possible solutions to the worsening situation.
NPA calls on Andrea Leadsom to ensure pig farmers get a fair Brexit deal
If EU tariffs, which currently add £45 per 100kg to the cost of imports of pig carcases, were significantly reduced in new trade deals, this could open the doors to large volumes of lower standard, imported pigmeat.
NPA policy services manager Lizzie Wilson said: “Countries like the US, Canada and Brazil are able to produce pigmeat at a much lower cost because they have lower animal welfare and environmental standards.
“We are absolutely adamant that the Government must not put a desire for cheap food ahead of the need to shore up the UK’s self-sufficiency in food, which has already declined alarmingly over the last few decades.
“We do not want to see UK consumers exposed to pigmeat produced to lower standards and we certainly do not want our producers to face unfair import competition.”
The NPA is calling for equivalent standards of production, including animal welfare, to be negotiated into any new trade agreements and, if necessary, for UK pigmeat to be granted protected status to control the volume of tariff free imports allowed into the UK.
Mrs Wilson added: “We noted Farming Minister George Eustice’s comments about negotiating common standards into trade deals at the Conservative Party Conference but he knows as well as we do that bringing welfare into these deals will not be straightforward.
Responding to comments by Mrs Leadsom and Mr Eustice in Birmingham about incentivising producers to raise health and welfare standards under a new domestic farm policy to help differentiate UK pigmeat from the competition, she added:
“The pig industry is always striving to implement standards that deliver improved animal welfare, but we must be mindful not to make the industry uncompetitive and effectively export our production to countries where welfare is lower.”
The NPA is also calling for new post-Brexit agricultural policies to support pig farmers in delivering public goods such as reducing antibiotic usage by improving animal health.
Mrs Wilson said: “We would like to see grant funding and some sort of tax relief available to help with reinvestment in new buildings, equipment and infrastructure.”
Other key messages to the Government in the NPA’s Brexit strategy include:
• Ensuring Defra dedicates the same resource and effort into keeping animal disease out as extending export markets, as ultimately the two are intrinsically linked
• Ensuring EU citizens wanting to work in the UK pig sector are not prevented from doing so because of complicated application processes or delays to visa processing
• Strengthening checks at major ports and increasing penalties for illegally imported products
• Ensuring the pig sector is included in any discussions on future welfare standards.
Mrs Wilson said: “The UK pig industry is worth £1.2bn at the farmgate and £7.5bn in total.
“It is a vital sector of the UK economy with good stories to tell in terms of growing export volumes and animal welfare standards.
“We welcome steps taken so far by Defra to include NPA in preliminary talks and look forward to this relationship continuing as we continue to make the case for a fair Brexit deal for the pig industry.”
Notes to editors:
• The NPA’s comprehensive Brexit briefing covering trade, farm support, animal health and disease, animal welfare and labour can be viewed here
• The NPA formulated its briefing document after its chairman Richard Lister attended a Defra Brexit stakeholder meeting on September 8 (link)
• More details on comments by Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom and Farming Ministers George Eustice about post-Brexit trade and raising animal welfare standards can be seen here
• The UK pig industry is worth £1.2 billion at the farm-gate and over £7.5 billion in total, including retail, foodservice and other external sales and exports
• The growing UK export market is worth £350 million a year. Last year the UK produced 899,000 tonnes of pigmeat, of which just over 25 percent was exported.
For further information please contact:
Lizzie Wilson, NPA policy services manager
Mobile: 07790 117091 Email: Lizzie.Wilson@npanet.org.uk
UK Pig Industry fully committed to addressing AMR
The UK pig industry is already fully committed to a programme of action to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the National Pig Association said as the Government outlined its stance on the issue.
On Friday (September 16), the Government published its response to Lord Jim O’Neill’s review on AMR.
It confirmed Defra’s commitment to a reduction in antibiotic use in livestock and fish farmed for food to an average across the sectors of 50mg/kg by 2018.
This compares with the most recent figure, from 2014, of 62mg/kg. Defra will work with individual sectors to ensure appropriate sector specific reduction targets are agreed by 2017.
Pig producers look to the future with confidence
Despite the many uncertainties ahead, British pig producers have a bright future outside the European Union, says the National Pig Association.
Pig producers make outstanding progress in recording use of antibiotics
In less than two months, antibiotic data for over 1.2m pigs has already been contributed by pig producers to the British pig industry's new on-line medicine book. This represents nearly a third of the national growing and finishing herd and shows outstanding progress in the sector's commitment to record, benchmark and control its use of antibiotics, says Dr Georgina Crayford, who leads the National Pig Association's recently-launched Pig Industry Antibiotic Stewardship Programme.
'Clunky' planning is delaying antibiotic reduction in livestock
If government and its regulatory agencies are serious about reducing antibiotics on farms, they should take early action to repair local authority planning processes, which have become progressively more clunky in recent years, says the National Pig Association.