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Government intending to introduce pig supply chain regulations in the summer - Spencer

24th Jan 2024 / By Alistair Driver

Mark Spencer has confirmed that the Government is intending to introduce new legislation governing pig contracts in the summer.

Mark Spencer Defra1The Farming Minister was speaking at the end of a debate on fairness in the food supply chain, prompted by a petition set in motion by Riverford Organic Farmers’ Guy Singh Watson, as part of his Get Fair About Farming campaign.

Defending the Government’s approach to addressing imbalances of power in the supply chain, Mr Spencer pointed to reviews it had commissioned in the dairy, pig, egg and fresh produce sectors.

“We took powers in the Agriculture Act to enable the introduction of statutory codes of contractual practice to protect those farmers. The codes will apply to any business purchasing agricultural products directly from farmers,” he said.

“They will provide greater certainty for farmers by ensuring that clear terms and conditions are set out in contracts. We intend to tailor the powers to those sectors that need them, because we acknowledge that the problems experienced by each sector differentiate widely.

“We must avoid introducing broad regulation that places burdens on sectors that may not require intervention, but we must make ensure that we concentrate on those areas that do.”

The dairy sector review started in 2020 and Mr Spencer said Defra has worked closely with the industry to ensure that the regulations are ‘tailored and proportionate, and provide the flexibility required in a global commodity market’. “They will create a new enforcement regime, and we will appoint an adjudicator to oversee compliance for our sector-specific codes,” he said.

The dairy regulations are undergoing final checks before their planned introduction to Parliament ‘hopefully before the Easter recess’, he added.

The pork supply chain review started in 2022 but Mr Spencer said Defra ‘learned an awful lot’ from the dairy sector, enabling it to go through the pork process ‘much quicker’.

Defra has committed to developing similar regulations for the pork sector dairy, introducing new rules for supply contracts and to improve market transparency through better market reporting data.

“We have developed a proposal that sets out the main features of the new regulations. We have been discussing them with industry and we expect to introduce them in summer this year,” Mr Spencer said.

Giving evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee last week NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson was optimistic that the new regulations deliver ‘something tangible that will help promote fairness within our sector’.

She said the NPA was pleased with progress so far, particularly after Defra shared its latest outline version of the regulation for consultation with NPA members.

“Virtually everything that producers and we have requested is actually within that policy document,” she told the MPs. “It’s not perfect, and some additional detail needs to be thrashed out, but it does look pretty robust.”

You can read more on the debate HERE