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Like a game of whack-a-mole - the big issues keeping the NPA busy

3rd Nov 2020 / By Zoe Davies

In the November issue of Pig World, NPA chief executive Zoe Davies explained why life at the NPA at the moment is like one long game of whack-a-mole

Zoe Davies1I expected the end of the year would be a little bit manic, but, seriously, I didn’t think it was going to be quite like this!

What a crazy month… As we hurtle headlong into what is looking more likely by the day to be a bit of a disaster for this country, the dedicated little band at NPA has been beavering away trying to identify, mitigate and find solutions for all of the myriad issues that have been popping up out of the woodwork – honestly, it’s like one endless game of ‘whack-a-mole’, only without the satisfaction of giving the things a blooming good wallop!

I’m currently trying to work with other organisations to try and find a solution to the ‘wild cloven-hooved animals’ issue, which, I have to be honest, is something that came a little bit out of the blue.

This is a clause in the new Export Health Certificate that vets will have to sign at the abattoir in order for pork to be able to be shipped to the EU, which states that the pigs must have been kept separate from wild cloven-hooved animals throughout their lives.

The issue is that becoming a third country means the conditions we will have to abide by are the same as every other third country, which may carry far greater risks than we do, so they are designed to be protective. 

Now, we think that this condition has been included because of African swine fever (ASF) and the fact there are many countries that don’t have as good biosecurity or fencing as us, but have much greater wild boar populations.

The trouble is, even though we know it’s not an issue, we still have to prove it isn’t, which is likely to involve producers and vets’ declarations and some jiggering with eAML2 to try and make it easier. Oh, and we have to find a solution by the end of the year! 

After this one, we still have Trichinella to deal with (which is a disease we haven’t had for decades, but will still have to prove it). Testing is going to be the most likely route, but I’m still going to push for controlled housing conditions to be approved, so we shall see.

Aside from that, we are also busy trying to convince the French that setting up border control posts at their ports so they can accept our live breeding animals will be a good idea…

Typically, each port makes its own decision on how it operates, so this is being done piecemeal. Sadly, we got a big fat ‘non’ from Calais, who only want horses, pets and day-old chicks, so we are desperately trying to find an alternative.

I’ve joined forces with NFU on this one as it will affect all species, but we have shipped over 11,000 breeding animals through Dover to Calais this year already, so it is an important trade for us. 

Dunkirk has so far been the most promising, as not only is it another short crossing from Dover, it is also operated for the French by DFDS, which will hopefully see the business it could pinch off P&O will be worth it. 

If we get that bit solved, all we need to sort is prioritisation through Kent! The sad thing is that this will all happen whether we get a deal or not, which is why we are trying to find solutions now.

On a more positive note, I did have a great discussion with the Aussies about the new Free Trade Agreement the UK is currently trying to navigate with them.

While they have always been a bit of a closed shop with respect to anyone exporting anything to them, they are very keen on exporting to other countries, so are at least making an effort to find out what people have to offer.

Their pig herd has suffered because they do not allow in any new genetic material and, whilst I am aware they are using certain genetic techniques to try and improve the situation, they admit that change is slow and is impacting on both productivity and meat quality. Hopefully, at some point, they will look at taking a more sensible, risk-based approach. Ever the optimist, me…

I have to say though, there is some serious graft going into resolving a lot of the EU Exit issues from people across the pig sector and I think you are all very lucky to have them – hopefully most of the problems will never impact on you.

What with COVID still causing havoc, I reckon you all have enough to deal with right now…