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NPA formulates plans for fairer supply chain as producers continue to suffer

15th Sep 2022 / By Alistair Driver

Regional pig producer representatives have highlighted the deep sense of unease and anxiety within the pig sector, as the industry continues to fight for a brighter, fairer future.

Pigs 2021The main focus of the latest NPA Pig Industry Group (PIG) meeting, held at Stoneleigh on Tuesday, was the NPA’s response to Defra’s consultation on its pork supply chain review.

Producer and allied industry representatives discussed how to present a strong unified industry response, based on the NPA’s focus groups, producer survey and individual interaction with members, to help bring about real change and give producers a stronger footing in the supply chain.

Allied to this was a clear message from all present encouraging producers to submit their own individual responses.

If you haven’t done so already you can find more details about the review HERE, and NPA guidance on how to respond can be found in the Members’ Area.

NPA chairman Rob Mutimer said: “The NPA is working hard to formulate a response to the Defra consultation that reflects the views of our diverse membership and that the whole industry can get behind. After all, we all hold the same goal of using this unique opportunity to bring about a fairer and more sustainable pork supply chain.

“It is equally important, however, that producers respond individually, outlining your own current situation and what you want from future contractual relations with your buyer or buyers. The louder our voice, the stronger case we have for change.”

Short-term survival concerns

In the short-term, the priority for many in the industry is survival. Defra’s recent June Agricultural survey for England, showed a 17% drop in the breeding herd in the year to June 2022 – a loss of more than 50,000 sows in the space of just 12 months.

During the regional round-up, producer representatives painted a bleak picture of the mood within the sector.

“There is a general gloominess out there from most of the producers I speak to and more producers are talking of going out,” the Eastern representative said. 

“Some producers are still getting pigs rolled and a few people are also worried about the rising price of CO2 for processors and how that might be passed down the supply chain to the producer.

“We have had a good harvest and there is a lot of straw, although it is very brittle and dry.”

It was a similar story across the regions. “There is just a general unease about what’s coming,” the South Central representative said, citing the record cost of feed and rising energy price in particular.

Another producer from the region added: “Producers just don’t see how it is going to change going forward.”

These comments were echoed by the Northern and Midlands representatives, who both cited the soaring costs producers are enduring. The Midlands representative also noted that some herds have suffered in the hot weather.

The national mood was summed up by the marketing group representative, who commented there were many ‘nervous, anxious producers questioning whether there is a future in the industry’.

The allied industry representatives, including from the pharmaceutical and buildings and equipment sectors, explained how the sustained financial losses and lack of confidence among producers was having a big impact on businesses across the wider industry

The feed market was described as ‘pretty horrible’, as high cereal and soya prices persist.

“Soya jumped a little bit yesterday (Monday) because of projections of the US crop being down a bit. Overall, it’s not pretty but it’s a lot little more stable than it has been,” the feed industry representative said. “Certainly, Ukraine shipments of cereals have helped a little with the price.”

Also in PIG…

  • The meeting began with a moment of reflection in recognition of the passing of Her Majesty the Queen.
  • Lizzie Wilson Sep 22This was Lizzie Wilson’s first meeting as NPA chief executive and she was congratulated and warmly welcomed to the role by NPA chairman Rob Mutimer. He also announced that Rebecca Veale has been promoted to the role of Chief Policy Adviser. PIG showed their appreciation for both and the NPA team.
  • The issues around a potential shortage of CO2 for processors were also discussed, after CF Fertilisers announced the planned temporary closure of its Billingham Complex, in Teeside. It is still unclear when, or if, the plant, which currently provides 40% of the country’s CO2 will close. There is growing optimism that if does, it will not coincide with the closure of Ensus’s bioethanol plant for maintenance, also in Teeside, which would put huge pressure on supplies. Pork processing plants are facing huge hikes in the cost of CO2 however, and producer members were keen that this is passed up the chain, rather than down.
  • Stewart Houston updated the PIG on the progress being made with the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway, with more information coming soon on this collaborative industry and Government project.
  • AHDB chairman Mike Sheldon announced more details of proposals for AHDB’s future priorities, in the face of a substantial cut to its budget in the next financial year (more on this soon).