National Pig Association - The voice of the British pig industry

Pig World logo

Home > News > Lizzie highlights pig sector border control concerns at Downing Street summit

Lizzie highlights pig sector border control concerns at Downing Street summit

14th May 2024 / By Alistair Driver

NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson highlighted the need for the Government to properly fund UK border controls and tighten up the rules on illegal meat imports during today’s Downing Street summit.

Rishi Sunak Downing Street summit 2Leading figures from across the food and farming sector joined Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and a host of Government Ministers for the second Farm to Fork summit at Number 10 this morning.

It began with a reception in the Downing Street garden showcasing the best of British food, during which Mr Sunak delivered a speech outlining Government support for the industry, including a draft Food Security Index, setting out key data and trends to allow government and industry to safeguard the UK’s food security.

He also announced a new Endemics Disease Scheme with over £72m of funding, which will help farmers control Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) in pigs, eradicate Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) in cattle, and tackle a range of different health conditions in sheep.

Mr Sunak also announced £3 million in support for new and mobile abattoirs through the Farming Investment Fund. This builds on the Small Abattoir Fund which opened last year to boost the sustainability and efficiency of red meat and poultry smaller abattoirs across England.

The Goverment today said it would introduce regulations to improve fairness in the pig sector 'as soon as possible', bringing stability and security to the pig supply chain through written contracts.

It confirmed that Richard Thompson has been appointed as the Agricultural Supply Chain Adjudicator, who will oversee the enforcement of our Fair Dealing regulations.

The attendees then moved into breakout sessions on key industry topics, before a concluding plenary summing up session.

Border controls

Lizzie explained: “The theme of my workshop was unlocking growth potential. I said that if you talk to our pig farmer members about looking ahead and the need for certainty to invest, their biggest concern is notifiable disease – mainly African swine fever - and an incursion into this country via illegally imported contaminated pigmeat.

“I pointed out that it is not just pigmeat – 54 sheep carcasses were seized at Dover last weekend, and there is also the very real threat of other devastating diseases, such as foot-and-mouth. An outbreak could wipe out our livestock sector, so there won't be any opportunity to expand economic growth.”

Defra has come in for heavy criticism within the industry over its decision to cut funding to the Dover Port Health Authority to carry out illegal meat checks and Lizzie used the platform to call for more resource to be made available at our points of entry.

“It is not just ports – there is also evidence of whole carcases coming in via airports as well,” she said. “I said we would also like a complete ban on all non-commercial imports, rather than the current 2kg threshold, as the risk is just too high.” 

The point was then followed up by others in the breakout session and subsequent plenary session, who reiterated the specific concerns about funding cuts for illegal meat checks and wider confusion over import checks at ports. 

Labour access

Other topics discussed during the sessions included the need for greater access to labour at all points in the supply chain – this was identified as a major barrier to some people being able to continue in the sector. Planning constraints were identified as another big barrier to long-term investment.

Another issue raised of interest to the pig sector was the question over whether retailers will be prepared to cover the extra costs of their new sustainability commitments, such as the move towards more sustainable soya supply chains next year.

Lizzie added: “It was very helpful to be at an event like this where we can mix with the Defra Ministerial team and other prominent Cabinet Ministers and influential people from across the industry – including Cheerful Charlie from Clarkson’s Farm! – and highlight the big concerns of the pork sector.

“While we are never going to solve all the industry’s problems, these events are a welcome sign of better engagement between Government and industry.”

Food security

Downing Street said the package of measures will support domestic food production, boost innovation in the sector supporting it to reach its economic potential, and recruit the next generation of farming and food leaders.

Defra Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Food security is vital to our national security, which is why today’s summit is so important, bringing together government and key representatives from the farming and food sector at Downing Street.

“We will continue to invest in and support farmers to produce the best of British food to strengthen our food security, championing innovation in the sector.”