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Ed: How we have responded to the unprecedented coronavirus situation

2nd Apr 2020 / By Ed Barker

In the current issue of Pig World, NPA senior policy adviser Ed Barker sets out how the NPA has responded to the coronavirus crisis - and why your feedback is so important to what we do. 


The spring of 2020 was expected to be a busy time for the NPA, with so many anticipated changes coming in the form of a new Agriculture Bill, an abundance of Government consultations and ongoing challenges from welfare groups and Ministers.

EdBarkerNPAHowever, not even the NPA could envisage the unprecedented workload that has arisen as a result of coronavirus. We have been following the issue for some time – members will have been aware how the virus had affected export markets in China, whilst watching the issue unfold in Italy, where problems have been seen in processing, production and exports.

As a series of measures were announced daily by the Government throughout March, the NPA has been swift to react to the rapidly changing world around us. These are outlined below:

NPA briefing update

The NPA has provided members with a document detailing the essential information anyone in the pig industry needs to know about the virus. This includes how to cope with staff absences, minimising the risk of the spread in businesses, assurance audits, deliveries and dealing with potential animal welfare issues. This document is regularly updated and amended.

Information note

Similar to the updated briefing note, the NPA has also provided an information note about the current state of concerns and issues in the pig sector. Developed for both members and external audiences (such as Government, regulators, producers and allied businesses), it provides the live concerns as we see them, and what actions the NPA are taking to address them. The areas covered include logistics, activism, trade, audits, and feed supply.

Key worker letter template

The NPA and other farming organisations worked hard to ensure that food production was included on the list of critical workers as defined by Government.

Producers, workers and vital allied business are now defined as ‘critical’ to the country’s ongoing response to coronavirus, meaning their children should be able to attend school, college or childcare provision. However we know that this has been difficult in practice.

Some members have been questioned by authorities about this, whilst others have had difficulty in explaining this to education or childcare establishments. As a result, the NPA has provided a template letter that can be used for workers who have to travel to and from work or still send their children to school or nursery.

Working with other organisations

Given the extraordinary nature of coronavirus and what this has meant for the whole country, it is imperative that we as NPA work alongside as many organisations as possible in order to ensure that members’ businesses can continue as best they can, products reach consumers and that the nation’s pigs are well looked after.

We are in communication with processors, the NFU, Government bodies, feed companies, AHDB and other organisations to ensure that disruption is minimised as much as possible and information is delivered to those who need it. We have been working closely with Red Tractor: members will have seen that ‘physical’ inspections were suspended from March 20, in favour of a remote assessment procedure.

Lobbying and working with Government

All of the NPA’s work would mean little if we were not communicating it to the people that matter. We have been active behind the scenes in talking to Defra and other departments about the challenges we are facing and what help we need along the way.

At the same time, we have also been in contact with parliamentarians to make sure that our voice is heard throughout the pandemic. We have been in conference calls with the Secretary of State George Eustice, along with his team, as well as shadow ministers, to ensure that Government action is scrutinised.

We also continue to lobby in Europe through farming trade body Copa as they explore Green Lanes and other measures to keep food production moving.

However, we would not be able to lobby on your behalf if we are not receiving the up-to-date information from you, the members, about how this virus is affecting your business. It is clear that Government and Ministers welcome our views on this.

With a novel virus like this, we cannot help the whole sector if we are not aware of the issues – however so far we have had great feedback from many members. For as long as we are dealing with the effects of the virus, and the after effects, we will need your help!