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NPA chief executive sets out pig sector's priorities at Downing Street summit

17th May 2023 / By Alistair Driver

NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson has told a Downing Street summit that pig producers are willing to embrace the sustainability agenda.

Lizzie Wilson Downing Street

But she stressed that, as the sector emerges from its greatest crisis, that the costs and benefits of doing so must be more equitably shared across the supply chain, just as the risks and rewards of pig production must be, too.

Lizzie was among the food and farming industry representatives invited to the Farm to Fork summit on Tuesday, which included a speech by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, a roundtable discussion and a reception in the Downing Street garden showcasing the best of British food.

The event was primarily about ‘top line strategic solutions’ to the issues facing the supply chain, rather than detailed policy, but Lizzie said it was an opportunity to hear the stance of Government and other parts of the food chain on the big issues of the day, and to get the pig sector’s priorities across to this important audience.

“For, example, I was able to explain to MPs during the garden party the devastating impact the crisis of the past two years has had on the pig sector, including the contraction of our breeding herd, and how it has affected producers personally,” she said. “I also highlighted ever-present threat of African swine fever and the need to ensure APHA is properly resourced. 

“There was a lot of discussion during the roundtable about producing world class produce and celebrating and valuing British food and its high standards.

“As the British pig industry, we absolutely agree with that principle, but we need to be careful about gold-plating the rules and loading legislation onto the primary producer who has to then pay for it and try to deliver it.

“We all want high welfare production and environmental sustainability, but it does cost money – for example, sustainable soya is more expensive due to the processes involved.

“I made the point that, as we go down this road, the costs and rewards need to be shared equitably across the supply chain, and that government teams and departments need to communicate with each other when formulating policy to limit the cumulative impact on primary producers.

Lizzie Wilson Downing Street 2

“I also stressed that this is why Defra’s approach to the review of contractual practice in the pig supply chain is very welcome. It was a positive response and we are really pleased there is going to be some tangible progress on fairness and transparency in the supply chain soon.”

Labour shortages

Rishi Sunak Downing Street summitThe meeting also saw representatives from across farming and food sectors highlight the issues they are having with labour availability.

“I made it clear that this continues to be a huge issue in the pig sector, particularly on farm. We need long-term solutions, rather than piecemeal visas that really only address seasonal labour every year. We don’t care where it’s from, but we need government to help us access permanent labour on farm in particular,” Lizzie said.

Other topics raised during included the need for the Government to do more to support British food with its own public procurement.

“Overall, the core message from all parts of the chain was that we need certainty and confidence to facilitate the investment needed to deliver a more robust and sustainable food chain.”

Lizzie welcomed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge that the Government will put farmers’ interests at the heart of future trade policy. “While we will, of course, need to see how that works in practice, this is undoubtedly a positive change of tone from the previous leadership and a commitment the Government must stick to,” she said.

“There were also welcome commitments on labour, planning and the Groceries Code Adjudicator being kept separate from the Competition and Markets Authority.

“We were pleased to be invited to this event, which was a great opportunity to highlight the pig sector’s priorities. We would look forward to seeing some positive outcomes from it.”

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