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Follow-up pig industry roundtable meeting keeps the pressure up to reduce backlog

7th Mar 2022 / By Alistair Driver

The first follow-up meeting to the February 10 pig industry crisis summit took place on Thursday, to specifically assess the backlog situation and processors plans to reduce it.

Victoria prentisThe meeting, attended by the NPA and NFU, individual pork processors, the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) and the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS), was again chaired by Farming Minister Victoria Prentis.

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said the Minister was clearly determined to help the pig industry and ensure processors and retailers do everything in their powers to tackle the pig backlog and the wider issues the industry is facing.

“The Minister fully understands the problems pig farmers are living with and the scale of this crisis and she has listened to what we are saying needs to happen," she said.

"Her laser focus on specific issues that we have asked to be addressed has been tremendously helpful and we remain grateful for her continued interest in this issue with so many other demands on her time. “

SIPS changes

The discussion covered a lot of ground, including the impact of recent changes to the Slaughter Incentive Payment Scheme (SIPS). The NPA has requested an extension of the scheme, which is currently due to close at the end of March.

“Allowing pork from SIPS kills to be sold on the domestic market has made it more attractive to processors and we are starting to see more of these additional shifts take place. This is the only measure so far that has had any impact on reducing the backlog, but, given the sheer numbers of pigs to get through, we need it to continue beyond March,” Zoe said.

Backlog plans and retail support

Mrs Prentis questioned each processor individually on their plans for reducing the backlog, including asking about additional shifts, number of extra pigs killed and planned for and how they prioritise within their own supply chains. The NPA will be providing information to the Minister to help ensure pigs are prioritised from farms that need it most.

Whilst retailers were deliberately not invited to this meeting, Mrs Prentis is going to meet them individually from next week, as well as hospitality and wholesale businesses that buy pork. She asked for specific information on unclear labelling and buying practises and NPA will be providing a briefing.

Zoe added: “A lot of the retailers are really going out of their way to be supportive, which we thank them for. However, there is more that all of them can do in terms of paying more for the raw material which will be incredibly important as input costs continue to rise.

“One retailer has said it would stock more British pork, but could only do so if more product was available. However, it is clear from speaking to processors that there is plenty of British pork available at the moment, and there will be a lot more over the coming weeks and months as we work through the backlog.

"This is a great opportunity for all retailers to up their volumes of British pork, pay for the product what it costs to produce and do their bit for the struggling British pig industry.”  

"Over the next few weeks, we will continue to put the spotlight, through the #PorkReport, on retailers’ sourcing and labelling policies.

Mrs Prentis has also met the agricultural leads of the big banks, who she said had assured her assured they were being ‘flexible’ when it comes to struggling pig businesses. She asked those present to report back if issues were being seen on the ground however.

Mr Prentis has also discussed the pig industry’s issues with the Home Office and will be organising another meeting with processors and the NPA to discuss visas in the coming weeks.

Compensation calls

NFU president Minette Batters also picked up the baton for NPA and once again argued for financial support from Government for producers. 

"Whilst Defra is still resolutely sticking to their position that their support has been targeted at processors to ease the backlog, with the growing issues surrounding input prices as a result of the Ukraine Russia war, we believe there is now a far stronger case to argue for exceptional market conditions and secure a case for compensation."

The NPA will be working with the NFU to develop the case for support.