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Government launches review of fairness and transparency in pork supply chain

15th Jul 2022 / By Alistair Driver

The Government has launched its long-awaited review of the UK pig sector intended to improve fairness and transparency within the supply chain.

The consultation has been published on the Defra website. Running until October 7, it invites views from pig farmers, abattoirs, processors, retailers, marketing groups and all stakeholders involved in the pig supply chain across the UK.

There are 47 questions, seeking views on issues such as transparency, price reporting, clarity of contractual terms and conditions, and market consolidation. While the questions focus very much on the relations between producers and processors, there is an opportunity to comment on 'any other issues or suggestions regarding the pig supply chain', which could include the role played by retailers.

The review could ultimately lead to new legislation governing relations, including contracts, within the supply chain. 

It is a UK wide consultation, undertaken by Defra with the agreement of the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and DAERA.

Significant challenges

The review notes that the pig sector has seen significant challenges in recent years, including an oversupply of pigs 'arising as a result of rapidly declining export demand by China, and the lack of skilled butchers in processing plants, compounded by the outbreak of Covid-19, which led to a significant backlog of pigs on farms.

It sets out the support that has been provided by the UK administrations so far, but 'recognises that more may be done'.

"Stakeholders have suggested there is a lack of transparency between processors and producers, and that a more consistent approach across processors may bring positive benefits to the sector," the review overview states.

"The purpose of this consultation is to gather evidence about how supply arrangements in the pig sector currently function and to explore the nature of the relationships between the various parties in the supply chain. It is also seeking views on whether the functioning of the supply chain can be improved."

It notes that pig producers in the UK tend to be small, individual businesses supplying highly consolidated businesses further up the supply chain who command substantial shares of the market.

"This disparity can make pig producers vulnerable to unfair trading practices. The Agriculture Act 2020 introduced the ‘Fair Dealings Powers’ which are designed to address any unfair practices, enabling Government to introduce regulations to oversee the relationship between producers and buyers where necessary," it added.

Once responses have been analysed, a summary of responses will be published to outline findings and propose any actions. Any further action in response to the findings of this consultation will be discussed and agreed with the Devolved Administrations.

Engage with consultation

Farming Minister Victoria Prentis said: “Recent months have been very difficult for pig farmers due to a range of pressures including rising costs and global labour shortages. We have engaged closely with the sector to support them in considerably reducing the backlog of pigs on farms and I continue to work with producers and retailers to support the sector.

“I am a firm believer in ‘Buy British’ and supporting our domestic pig producers, and a fair and transparent supply chain is paramount. I hope the industry engages fully with this consultation so that we can help to address the challenges that they are facing.”