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Pig industry needs supply chain and Government support as we seek recovery in 2022 - NPA chairman

1st Jan 2022 / By Rob Mutimer

In his New Year message, NPA chairman Rob Mutimer sets out his hopes for 2022, after the turmoil of 2021. 

Rob Mutimer 22021 really has been the perfect storm for the pig sector. COVID-19 was initially quite friendly to the industry, but the bite in the tail of the loss of Chinese exports and illness and staff shortages reducing the throughput of the processing sector has really hurt us.

With this being further compounded by Brexit, increased production costs and drop in the pig price, the industry has had a great deal to cope with over the past 12 months.

A serious backlog of pigs remains on farms, which is still causing huge problems for some farmers who have run out of options, and the financial situation is dire.

Although we are in the depths of our problems as I write, I do believe we are starting to see the first chinks of light for recovery in 2022 - starting with the arrival of some desperately-needed butchers, although how many remains to be seen.  

With some plants having received inspections in recent months, we will hopefully see renewed access to the Chinese pork market, which is seeing some strong growth in prices in the third quarter of 2021.

We have also seen strong sales of retail pig meat as we have come through COVID, which we should be confident of, as the price difference between pork and beef/lamb has never been greater.

But as we move into 2022, we really need to fix the broken supply chain, so that all parts of it are sharing the burden during these difficult times. Producers want fairness in their dealings with processors and, while we appreciate the efforts of those retailers who have been backing British pork, we need to see all retailers prioritising our fantastic British product over cheap imports.

As we seek recovery and a brighter future for our sector, we will also need the full backing of the Government in ensuring any support it delivers achieves its aim of reducing the backlog, rather than simply benefiting processors. We welcome indications the Government is planning to look further into the pork supply chain, which does need to be held to account.

We also desperately need a proportionate approach to some of the big policy issues we currently face.

NPA fighting on your behalf

May I thank all of those who put themselves forward for the NPA elections at the start of the year, as I believe this has resulted in an excellent well-balanced group on the new Pig Industry Group. Having both producers and allied members meeting together gives the NPA a much better perspective of members views and industry situation.

Whilst an enormous amount of the NPA’s time and energy this year has been spent firefighting the well-known industry problems with backlog of pigs, it has not been at the expense of the other issues that have been ongoing.

The fantastic, focused and hard-working NPA team have, to their enormous credit, worked tirelessly on many other projects such as Farming Rules for Water, welfare during transport, the farrowing crate debate, Zinc oxide ban and ASF contingency planning.

The sheer number of Defra consultations along with new trade talks and deals has been very challenging for the small NPA team.

Although we do not always get everything we want from the consultations, we are always in the room to reduce potential impact to the sector and the team can claim real success many areas.

The way we have lobbied government during 2021 has evolved considerably. Although there has been less face to face meetings at Westminster, we have for the past 12 months had weekly meetings with Defra, which have often been very frustrating but should, in time, mean Defra have a greater understanding of the modern pig industry and how it functions. We have also forged closer links with politicians on both sides of the house.

Membership renewal

I hope next year will see a considerable improvement in our collective fortunes. Until then please help us continue to represent the pig sector by renewing your membership promptly.