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Pig industry crisis summit - initial NPA reaction

10th Feb 2022 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has urged Defra and the supply chain to follow up and deliver on the action points agreed at today’s pig industry crisis summit.

Pigs 2021The summit, chaired by Farming Minister Victoria Prentis, brought together trade organisations, including the NPA, the NFU and the British Meat Processors Association, pig producers and representatives from all the main pork processors and UK retailers to discuss solutions to the worsening pig crisis.

Mrs Prentis has announced an ‘immediate review of Supply Chain Fairness in the pig sector’, following this afternoon's meeting. “The effects on pig farmers have been devastating, and it is clear that many contractual arrangements are simply unfair," she said.

However, while there were wide-ranging discussions and some actions agreed to try and make more progress in easing the pig backlog, the summit did not deliver what the NPA and NFU were asking in some areas.

The NPA will issue a full response tomorrow once its leaders have digested all the information to come out of the summit.

Rob Mutimer 4Giving his initial reaction, NPA chairman Rob Mutimer said: “It was a full and frank discussion, and Defra ministers and officials and the supply chain representatives were left in no doubt as to the seriousness of the problems currently being experienced on farms.

“We always knew there would be no simple solutions and we thank Victoria Prentis for her commitment to bring the industry together to try and find some answers.

“She has been very supportive and has committed to two further meetings. But while many parts of the supply chain are doing everything they can to try and alleviate the issues faced, what has become very clear is that much of this problem ultimately boils down to access to labour - and that is within Government's, and nobody else’s, gift.

“While Victoria Prentis is working really hard for us, the labour issue is the responsibility of other government departments and that is where the barrier lies.

“There is now a list of actions from the summit and the urgency now is to identify who is going to do what and when because time scales for this are basically yesterday. Producers are desperate and need action now.”

Victoria Prentis statement

Victoria prentisIn her statement, Mrs Prentis said: “The pig sector has been faced with a range of challenges, including the loss of exports to the Chinese market for certain pig processors, global disruption to CO2 supplies, and global labour shortages and we want to support the industry to reduce the current backlog of pigs on farms.  

“The effects on pig farmers have been devastating, and it is clear that many contractual arrangements are simply unfair.

"Our Agriculture Act includes provisions to address this unfairness, and we are launching an immediate review of Supply Chain Fairness in the pig sector.

"We want to hear from industry about improvements to fairness and transparency that could be made to ensure a profitable and productive future and we will begin engaging with industry on this straightaway with a consultation expected later this year. 

“This will come in addition to the measures we have already introduced to address the current challenges, including temporary visas for up to 800 pork butchers, funding for a private storage aid scheme and a new slaughter incentive payment scheme to help with the costs of running additional shifts for the processing of pigs. Both of these schemes have recently been extended until the end of March.

“I want to reiterate my commitment to work with the sector to address the challenges they are facing, both in the short-term and the long-term.”

NFU reaction 

Minette Batters 21NFU President Minette Batters said: “I’m grateful to the Minister for joining the roundtable today and hearing from pig farmers about the devastating situation they are currently facing.

“We are witnessing the first ever cull of healthy pigs in this country, with the backlog on farms now in excess of 200,000 pigs, and there are farming families suffering serious emotional, mental and financial stress as a result. It remains critical that the government looks at providing financial support to those farmers most affected.

“I would also urge government to simplify the skilled worker visa route to allow more butchers to be recruited and to make use of public procurement to source British pork. There remains a crucial role for retailers agreeing to promote British pork, particularly those key joints and cuts that are essential to carcass balance.

“Let’s be clear. Since April, the NFU, the NPA and the entire food supply chain has been warning the government of the possible consequences labour shortages could have on food and farming. Unfortunately, our predictions have become reality and it is deeply frustrating that nothing has been done. We now have a long-term plan but no short-term fix.

“Without urgent action, I fear the pig sector will contract even further and we will see increases in pork imports that are produced to lower standards. That is something I certainly don’t want to see and neither do the public, who want to buy high-quality, British pork.

“The launch of an immediate review of supply chain fairness in the pig sector is positive but unfortunately it will do nothing to alleviate the crisis taking place on pig farms across the country. The whole industry and government now needs to pull together to resolve this crisis.”