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19th

January 2024
Westminster

NPA election manifesto calls for fairness in the supply chain and protection of our borders


The NPA has called on the main political parties to act to deliver fairness in the supply chain and to protect our borders from diseases like African swine fever (ASF), ahead of an expected General Election this year.

Pigs 2021The association has today published its election manifesto, setting out three overriding priorities for the pig sector in election year:

  • A supply chain that works for all.
  • Investment in Britain’s biosecurity
  • Protection for our world-leading animal health and welfare.

You can view the manifesto HERE

Under the first heading, the NPA highlights the need for the Defra Conractual Practice Review into the UK Pig Sector to lead to ‘concrete actions and a mandatory code that better protects primary producers by distributing risk throughout the supply chain more proportionately’.

This code must cover the entire supply chain, including retailers, so costs and pressures are shared more equitably.

The NPA also wants to see more done to promote British pork through clearer country-of-origin labelling, more public procurement of home grown produce and investment in export markets.

Border checks

The manifesto goes onto highlight how the lack of resource for border checks for high-risk goods moving from the EU to Great Britain poses a grave threat to the UK's biosecurity and our ability to prevent notifiable diseases, such as ASF.

More than 65 tonnes of illegal meat products have been seized at the port of Dover since September 2022, despite limited funding, and yet Defra is proposing to slash funding for this vital work.

The NPA therefore calls for improved and increased border controls for meat imports and for sufficient resource to be made available at major ports, such as Dover, alongside an urgent ban on all non-commercial pork imports, removing the current 2kg limit, and strict penalties for any individuals caught bringing illegal meat into the UK.

The association also wants a review of APHA resource and expertise to ensure it is capable of responding quickly and effectively to notifiable disease outbreaks.

Under the third part of the manifesto, the NPA highlights how the British pig sector has led the way in making the UK global leader in animal and welfare, including the huge progress in reducing antibiotic usage in recent years.

The manifesto makes two key calls to help maintain this. The first is for the next Government to take an evidence-based approach to animal welfare policy and work side by side with the industry on future policies, particularly in relation to reform of farrowing systems.

The second is an insistence that future trade deals must not give access to pork produced in systems that would be illegal in the UK.

Government support

NPA chairman Rob Mutimer said: “The UK pig sector is currently in recovery mode following a disastrous two-year period that saw producers suffer huge financial losses, resulting in a significant contraction of the breeding herd.

“To get back to where we want to be, delivering high quality pork products for the nation, produced to the very highest standards, we need the next Government to support us by making the food chain fairer, protecting our borders and taking a balanced and collaborative approach to regulation.”

Notes to editors

  1. UK pig meat production declined by 10% last year on the back of a contraction of the breeding herd. More HERE
  2. The NPA has warned that Defra plans to cut the budget for illegal meat seizures at the Port of Dover could be ‘catastrophic’ for the pig sector. More HERE
  3. The Government said it intends to introduce new regulations governing pig contracts in the summer. More HERE

More information

For more information, email: , tel: 02476 858780

5th

January 2024
NPANews

NPA calls for tougher illegal meat import rules after 'deeply worrying' Dover seizures


The NPA has called for all non-commercial pork imports to the UK be made illegal and for more resources to be allocated to enforcing the law, after it emerged that large quantities of meat are being seized at the Port of Dover.

Revelations that 57 tonnes of illegally imported pigmeat have been seized at the Port of Dover since September 2022 are deeply worrying. This included 5.5 tonnes of illegal meat seized over the weekend before Christmas, alone. 

Beverley Edmondson, Port Health Manager at Dover District Council and Port Health Authority, said the large quantities being seized by Dover Port Health Authority (DPHA), despite ‘limited resource’, could be just the ‘tip of the iceberg’.

In an article for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health’s EHN magazine, she gave a sobering update on the port’s progress in implementing rules introduced in September 2022 to protect the UK pig herd from African swine fever (ASF). The rules make it illegal for travellers to bring pork products weighing over 2kg into the country from the EU unless produced to EU commercial standards.

“We are seeing unprecedented quantities of illegal, non-compliant meat, unparalleled at any other point of entry,” Ms Edmondson said. 

“Our experiences over the last 12 months have highlighted the scale and scope of the illegal meat trade, and why our work to remove it from the food chain is so critical. We estimate that, for every tonne of illicit meat removed, there are multiple tonnes entering GB undetected,” she said.

She suggested the work should be placed under port health authority jurisdiction, rather than Border Force, for specific high-risk locations such as Dover, and said it was ‘imperative resources are appropriately channelled and maintained to ensure we can keep this stuff out’.

NPA response

NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson praised the work being done by the DPHA on behalf of the pig industry. “This can be difficult and unpleasant work and we are hugely grateful for the tireless efforts being made by DPHA to seize this illegal meat that could contain ASF virus,” she said.

“But the volumes being seized are deeply worrying. The most worrying aspect of all this is the assumption that the meat being seized at Dover represents only the tip of the iceberg. It is, sadly, inevitable that lots of this illegally imported meat is getting into the country, some of which could well be infected with ASF.

“We understand, anecdotally, that due to the cost-of-living crisis, there is a growing black market for meat in this country, which will be driving the demand for illegally imported meat for both domestic and commercial use.

“As we know from the regular emergence of ASF in new areas across Europe, often attributed to human spread, it will only take one incident of a piece of infected meat reaching a pig to bring the entire pig industry to its knees.

“We are therefore calling on the Government to extend the current ban to all non-commercial pork imports rather than just consignments over 2kg. This will make it simpler for travellers to understand and easier to enforce.

“It is also absolutely essential that, as Beverley Edmondson suggests, this vital work is properly resourced­ – it must be maintained and strengthened, wherever possible. “We also urge the Government to consider her call for responsibility for these checks to be transferred from Border Control to the port health authorities.

“We continue to call on Defra to improve our border controls, generally, and are seeking assurances from Government that there will be no more delays to the implementation of proper border checks on commercial imports via the Border Target Operating Model, which has now been postponed five times.

“An outbreak of ASF would be catastrophic for the pig sector, with many knock-on effects. We urge the Government to take this threat seriously.”

Notes to editors

  1. You can read more about the work at the Port of Dover HERE
  2. ASF continued to spread to new parts of Europe in 2023, often attributed to human-mediated spread. It was discovered in wild boar in Sweden for the first time in September. In May, ASF jumped to a new area of southern Italy in domestic pigs and wild boar. There were major outbreaks in the Balkans in 2023.
  3. APHA has designated the risk of ASF entering Great Britain from the human-mediated pathway as ‘HIGH’ (occurs very often), while the risk of entry in live animals and products of animal origin (POAO) from affected countries, remains at ‘MEDIUM’ (occurs regularly).
  4. The Government has repeatedly delayed the introduction of official import controls on EU POAO, with checks at ports not due to start until April 30, 2024.
  5. Rules introduced in September 2022 to protect the pig sector from ASF make it illegal for travellers to bring pork products weighing over 2kg into the country from the EU unless produced to EU commercial standards.
  6. The NPA recently called on for action from Government to prevent and prepare for an outbreak of ASF. Key points:
  • No further delays on checks for goods entering the UK from the EU under the Border TOM. Physical checks at ports are due to commence in April, after numerous delays. 
  • Improved border controls for meat imports, including sniffer dogs at ports/airports/Eurotunnel and postal hubs) and better communications, including messaging at points of entry, to emphasise the risks of bringing in meat products.
  • A review of APHA resource and available expertise to ensure it has the capability to respond quickly and effectively to notifiable disease outbreaks, particularly as the ongoing Avian Influenza prevalence means that we could see concurrent outbreaks of two different notifiable diseases.
  • The urgent need to agree a plan for regionalisation with our trading partners to ensure that unaffected parts of the UK could still export pork in the event of an outbreak.

More information

For more information, email: , tel: 02476 858780

 

13th

February 2023
Brussels

NPA urges to Defra to push ahead with pork supply chain review


The NPA is urging Defra to push forward without delay with its review of the pork supply chain, to help deliver lasting reform and a fairer trading environment for struggling pig producers.

After two years that have seen one crisis follow another and pig production losses estimated at £750 million while other parts of the chain post handsome profits, the NPA has stressed that things cannot continue as they are.

More than 350 responses were submitted to Defra’s consultation on contractual practice in the pig supply chain last autumn, most of which were producers. “This not only gave Defra a very robust mandate, but also a comprehensive body of evidence to be able to make real progress on the outcomes we so desperately need,” said NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson.

The review has the potential, ultimately, to bring about clearer and more certain contractual relations within the chain, underpinned by new legislation.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer has suggested that Defra’s response to the pork consultation is due to be published ‘very soon’, but the NPA has insisted that this must be just the start of a reform process that Defra commits to fully. 

Defra initiated a review of the dairy sector in 2020, with the aim being to introduce legislation this year, although this is still in progress.

“The UK pig sector does not have that sort of time and we hope the lessons learned by the dairy sector will help us in this process,” Mrs Wilson said.

“We lost an estimated 15% of the national breeding sow herd in the 12 months to June 2022, and, although there are now signs of a return to profitability, the independent pig sector remains in an extremely fragile state.

“Whilst we appreciate this is not going to happen overnight and any policy must be fit for purpose, producers need confidence to continue production. We need the risk to be more proportionately spread through the supply chain, and that will only come with far-reaching reforms.”

 

NPA asks

The NPA made eight key asks in its response to Defra’s consultation last autumn, setting out a blueprint for a fairer, more transparent and, ultimately, more sustainable pork supply chain.

Key asks include the introduction of legislation to underpin new pig contracts, which would allow producers, marketing groups and pork processors to negotiate terms that work for all parties, including ensuring a fair price for producers, and backed by an effective dispute resolution mechanism.

The NPA is also calling for better forecasting to improve business planning, as part of a wider drive to increase transparency across the chain, and for pork buyers to make better use of the entire pig carcase, rather than just selective cuts.

NPA chief policy adviser Rebecca Veale added: “We have moved from a situation where processors did not have the capacity to take the number of pigs available, causing horrendous backlogs on farm, to one where we now have a shortage of British pigs.

“Pig prices are now rising as a result, but this degree of volatility is in nobody’s interests, which is why we want to see a more balanced trading environment, better forecasting and for buyers to take a longer-term perspective. 

“The initial consultation focused very much on the processor-producer relationship, but our message to Defra all along has been that any solution to this imbalance of power must include the retailers, who set the tone for the rest of the chain.

“We know that Defra has a lot on its plate at the moment, but this piece of work must remain a priority and continue to be driven forward at all opportunities. It is in everybody’s interests to bring about a fairer, more sustainable pork supply chain to help ensure continued domestic supply.”

Notes to editors

  • Defra launched its review of contractual practice in the pork supply chain in July.
  • The consultation closed in October and the Department is due to publish a summary of responses, setting out its next steps soon.
  • In its response, the NPA made eight headline asks:

1.         Contractual practice needs to be underpinned by legislation to ensure accountability and deliver change for all producers and processors.

2.         Contracts should follow a framework to allow producers and processers/marketing groups to negotiate terms that work for both parties. We outlined four principles for contracts in line with the powers within the Agriculture Act 2020:

•           Price needs to be fair, transparent and negotiable

•           All parties should be able to negotiate a contract fairly

•           One-sided clauses should be removed

•           A mechanism for dispute resolution is essential.

3.         Penalties for out of specification pigs should not deliver a negative or zero value when contracted pig numbers have not been fulfilled.

4.         Better forecasting is needed to help inform business planning, including a mandatory monthly pig weaning survey.

5.         Processors should submit details of their contracted pig numbers to Defra for price reporting purposes.

6.         Full transparency is needed for price reporting mechanisms.

7.         Retail, food service and wholesale businesses should formally report the volume of cuts, carcase utilisation and origin of pork on a regular basis.

8.         Retail and food service companies need to commit to buying a reasonable proportion of the pig carcase and utilising more British pork from it for products within their supply chains to help improve carcase balance.

More information

For more information, email:

14th

October 2022
NPANews

NPA calls for supply chain reforms to save pig industry's bacon


The NPA has called on the Government to introduce essential reforms across the pork supply chain to avert the collapse of the British pig industry and protect the UK’s food security.

Rob Mutimer 4The association’s submission to Defra’s consultation on Contractual Practice in the UK Pig Sector sets out a blueprint for a fairer, more transparent and, ultimately, more sustainable pork supply chain.

Key asks include the introduction of legislation to underpin new pig contracts, which would allow producers, marketing groups and pork processers to negotiate terms that work for all parties, including ensuring a fair price for producers.

The NPA is also calling for better forecasting to improve business planning, as part of a wider drive to increase transparency across the chain, and for pork buyers to make better use of the entire pig carcase, rather than just selective cuts.

The NPA’s submission to the consultation, which closed on October 7, comes against the backdrop of a catastrophic 18 months for the industry that has seen producers rack up losses, collectively, of more than £600 million.

Many have been forced out of business, with official Government figures highlighting an 18% decline in the pig breeding herd over the year to June 2022. With average pig prices still well below average production costs, many more producers currently stand on the brink.

NPA chairman Rob Mutimer (pictured), a Norfolk pig producer, said: “We believe this process offers real hope for the British pig sector, which has taken an absolute battering over the past 18 months.

“It has become fairly obvious to all involved that the supply chain, as it stands, is broken. Contracts, where they exist, have proved to be not worth the paper they are written on for many, and those producers have been left powerless as their pigs have been rolled week after week.

“Allied with other factors such as Brexit-related labour shortages and soaring feed and energy costs, driven by the war in Ukraine, the situation has left the pig sector hugely damaged to the extent that our capacity to produce pork in this country is now under threat.

“We believe the measures that we and others who have responded are calling for will, if implemented, form the basis of a stronger, more coherent supply chain where all parts have the opportunity to thrive.

“But the Government must act decisively and quickly before it is too late for the pig sector – and in order to fulfil its stated aims of reinforcing the UK’s food security.”

The NPA’s response

The NPA team gathered extensive member feedback from focus groups, online surveys and direct conversations with producers, marketing groups, processors and allied members.

 There was a clear acknowledgement from producers and the allied industry that the current contractual system does not function properly and that there is a disproportionate spread of risk through the supply chain that must be addressed.  

Our response stressed that change is needed throughout the wider supply chain, including the retail sector, not just between producers and processors.

You can read a summary of the NPA's response HERE

We made eight headline asks:

1.         Contractual practice needs to be underpinned by legislation to ensure accountability and deliver change for all producers and processors.

2.         Contracts should follow a framework to allow producers and processers/marketing groups to negotiate terms that work for both parties. We outlined four principles for contracts in line with the powers within the Agriculture Act 2020:

  • Price needs to be fair, transparent and negotiable
  • All parties should be able to negotiate a contract fairly
  • One-sided clauses should be removed
  • A mechanism for dispute resolution is essential.

3.         Penalties for out of specification pigs should not deliver a negative or zero value when contracted pig numbers have not been fulfilled.

4.         Better forecasting is needed to help inform business planning, including a mandatory monthly pig weaning survey.

5.         Processors should submit details of their contracted pig numbers to Defra for price reporting purposes.

6.         Full transparency is needed for price reporting mechanisms.

7.         Retail, food service and wholesale businesses should formally report the volume of cuts, carcase utilisation and origin of pork on a regular basis.

8.         Retail and food service companies need to commit to buying a reasonable proportion of the pig carcase and utilising more British pork from it for products within their supply chains to help improve carcase balance.

Notes to editors

  • More information on Defra’s most recent pig census can be found HERE
  • More information on the UK pig sector’s financial situation can be found HERE

6th

May 2022
NPANews

NPA calls for Tesco support, as four out of five British pig farmers are set to go bust


The NPA has told Tesco it needs to do more to support struggling pig producers or risk losing its British pork supply base, as a survey shows four in every five producers will go out of business within a year unless their financial situation improves.

Today the NPA has appealed directly to the retail giant to pay a fair price for pork or risk losing its British pork supply base forever. In an open letter to its chief executive Ken Murphy, NPA chairman Rob Mutimer stresses that Tesco, given its scale, is uniquely positioned to act to prevent the ‘destruction of the UK pig sector’.

UK pork producers are currently facing unprecedented losses as costs of production soar due to record pig feed prices.

It currently costs an estimated 203-216p per kg to produce a pig, a figure forecast to rise even higher, as wheat prices continue to rise due to disruption caused by war in Ukraine. Yet average pig prices remain below 170p/kg, meaning many producers are losing tens of thousands pounds each week.

Retailers hold the key to injecting more money into the supply chain and several of Tesco’s competitors, recognising the vital role they play in supporting British farmers, have responded to NPA calls to increase their pig price.

The Co-op, M&S, ALDI, ASDA, Morri- sons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose are now paying more for British pork through their dedicated supply chains.

But Tesco, the UK’s biggest retailer, which has just announced a trebling of profits to more than £2bn, is yet to respond to the crisis hurting its pig suppliers.

Tesco support
In the letter, Mr Mutimer asks the Tesco boss for the retailer’s support. “The problems facing the sector have been building for some time and have arisen through no fault of the primary producers,” he writes, going on to outline how an ‘unprecedented crisis’ over the last 18 months has hit pig sector producers.

NPA survey data suggests there are still 100,000 pigs stuck on farms that should have gone to slaughter and farmers are losing in excess of £50 per pig due to the enormous gap between their cost of production and the price the supply chain is paying for pork.

The pig industry has already lost an estimated 10% of the breeding herd as producers have left the industry or cut down on production, while the NPA poll of members shows that 80% will not be able to survive the next 12 months unless the gap between the cost of production and pig prices is significantly reduced.

“By 2023 British pork will be in such short supply that most retailers will no longer be able to source it,” Mr Mutimer explains.

He stresses that Tesco is in a unique position to help because of its UK market share and vol- ume of pork sales. “Unless action is taken now and a fair price is paid, there will not be a do- mestic pig industry left to service the demands of your shoppers and we know how much they value fresh British produce,” Mr Mutimer writes.

“A relatively modest investment by Tesco will not only prevent the destruction of the sector, but it will mean that British pork will still be available at a price affordable to your custom- ers. Paying a little more today is likely to save you money in the long term.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of time and each week that passes puts pig farmers further into the red.

“I fully appreciate that every part of the supply chain is under strain from inflationary pres- sures and your customers are struggling with the cost of living. However, I am sure that shop- pers and shareholders alike would want you to back British farmers and ensure that we can supply you with fantastic pork for decades to come.”

Member action
The NPA is also urging its members to write to Tesco directly to make a similar plea, whilst copying in their local MP.

“Tesco’s famous mantra is ‘Every Little Helps’ – well pig farmers need a lot of help and if Tesco doesn’t step up to the plate, it is going to struggle to source British pork in the future,” Mr Mutimer said.

You can read the full letter HERE

6th

April 2022
Brussels

EFRA report on labour a wake-up call to Government


The NPA has called on the Government to learn from the recent crisis and work with the industry to address the labour issues that have crippled the pig sector over the past year.

This follows the publication of a damning report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that highlighted the desperate problems the shortage of butchers in processing plants have caused the pig sector and accused Ministers of not taking them seriously enough.

The influential cross-party committee’s report gave huge credence to evidence given by the NPA during its inquiry into labour shortages in the food and farming sector – and it has adopted a number of the NPA’s asks in its recommendations.

These include calls for the Government to make a ‘step change’ in how it engages with industry and act promptly on its concerns, and for it provide direct support to pig producers affected by the industry crisis.

There are also helpful recommendations on adding roles to the shortage occupation list, lowering the English language requirement in the Skilled Workers scheme and the timing of the Government’s fairness in the pork supply chain review.

Thorough and insightful

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “This is an incredibly thorough and insightful report that has got to the very nub of the labour issues facing the food and farming sector.

“The report is clear that labour shortages, brought about in part by changes to Government policy, have had a huge impact on the pig sector, which is still fighting for its survival.

“The Government now needs to take stock and adopt these sensible recommendations in full. We want to see the Government, and the Home Office in particular, take this issue seriously.

“Ministers need to stop arguing that labour shortages are not a problem, stop deflecting blame onto the industry, and as the report suggests, sit down with us to understand the problems and look at how we can work together to find solutions.

“I want to stress that the NPA agrees with the report’s long-term goal of reducing our reliance on migrant labour. But there is much to work through before we can get there, and we need to rethink the policies currently in place so that the industry can employ enough people to produce the products the British public demand. 

“We are hugely grateful to Neil Parish and his committee for delivering such a coherent and balanced report – and sincerely hope it can lead to better things.”

Specific recommendations

NPA senior policy adviser Charlie Dewhirst highlighted some of the report’s key recommendations:

Secretary of State to intervene with measures aimed at providing support for pig farmers, rather than pork processors.

Charlie said: “We have been calling for many months for direct support for pig producers in England to reflect the enormous financial pressures placed on them over the last year through no fault of their own. Producers in other parts of the UK and across Europe have already received compensation. We have written to Defra again to request that this support is forthcoming for producers in England, too.”

The Government’s review of fairness in the pig supply chain to be taken forward as a matter of urgency and the final report to be published before the end of July 2022.

Charlie said: “Again, this is something we very much support. We have welcomed Defra’s review, but producers cannot wait for a lengthy inquiry to see changes made in how the supply chain operates. We need a rapid conclusion and urgent change.”

Home Office must immediately lower the English language requirement to a ‘basic user level’ for those Skilled Worker Visa roles in the food and farming sector.

Charlie said: “The English language requirement is set too high and creates an unnecessary barrier to recruiting much-needed skilled butchers.

"This policy change is essential, and we see no reason why it should not be made.”

Government to consult with the sector to establish what additional costs businesses face when applying for visas for vital overseas labour and to develop an action plan to minimise bureaucratic barriers and process costs.

Charlie said: “This is another very helpful recommendation that reflects the need to address the extra costs and barriers businesses face in recruiting labour.”

Government to immediately add the food and farming roles that were contained in its MAC’s September 2020 recommendations to the shortage occupation list (SOL).

Charlie said: “We have been calling for skilled butchers to be added to the SOL for a long, long time. The Government should listen to its own advisers and to the EFRA Committee, which fully understands the issues, and respond immediately.”

Wake-up call

Charlie concluded: “This should be a wake-up call to Government, which will now have to respond to each of the recommendations. We need a cross-departmental approach to solving these urgent problems when they arise and a recognition that migration policy should be flexible in responding to unforeseen circumstances, such as the pandemic.

“We are delighted that the EFRA Committee has taken on board all of our concerns and we look forward to working with Government to address the many issues raised.”

10th

March 2022
NPANews

Future of British pork supply at risk if retailers fail to act now


The NPA is calling on retailers to significantly increase the price they pay for their pork to save the British pig industry from total collapse, following an unprecedented spike in feed costs.

An already desperate situation on pig farms across the country has been pushed beyond the survival limit for many since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted a dramatic leap in the wheat price. It now stands in the region of £300/tonne, compared with around £215/tonne just a few days ago.

Pig farmers, who have already faced more than a year of heavy financial losses, are currently losing tens of thousands of pounds per week, and face a serious and imminent risk of being unable to afford to feed their pigs and keep their businesses going.

The NPA is asking retailers to ensure they pay enough to at least cover pig farmers’ costs of production. This is essential, not only to help ensure the survival of the British pig sector but, with EU pig numbers falling and prices rapidly rising, to maintain their supply of pork, bacon, sausages, ham and other pigmeat products to consumers.

“We need something to happen very, very soon. Many pig businesses can only last weeks, in some cases days,” one desperate producer said at a meeting of NPA pig farmers on Tuesday.

A financial catastrophe

Pig producers have already endured an horrendous 12 months, losing, typically around £25/pig in the first half of 2021, increasing to an unprecedented £39/pig in the final quarter. This was a result of a ‘perfect storm’ of a falling pig price, combined with record feed costs, compounded by having to feed heavier pigs for longer due to the pig backlog.

A number of pig businesses have quit the industry over the past six months with a lot more cutting back on pig numbers. Many businesses had been determined to dig in despite the big losses, in the expectation that the situation would all eventually come good.

The recent spike in the wheat price has now shattered that prospect, particularly, with soya, energy, fuel and labour costs also increasing.

“Nobody can survive with wheat at £300/tonne. The situation is now beyond desperate and there is no light at the end of the tunnel,” NPA chairman Rob Mutimer said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, pig producers highlighted just how dire the situation had become:

  • One producer explained how their feed costs increased from £78/pig in April 2021 to £101/pig this month, and are set to soar to £119/pig in April 2022 due to the higher wheat price.
  • Another producer said his business’s overall costs of production had risen from 160p/kg in December to over 200p/kg now and are likely to go higher. Others put similar, or higher, figures on current production cost.
  • Another estimated that, with forecast losses of £50/pig, a 700-sow pig unit will lose £1 million over the next year at current prices and costs.
  • Others pointed out that producers have not been buying as much feed forward as usual as prices were already at record levels, meaning they are hugely exposed to the higher wheat price, up £80/tonne in a few days, with potentially more to come.
  • Concerns were expressed that many farmers are reaching their credit insurance limit for feed which will mean that soon feed companies will be unable to supply feed.
  • There are still many pigs backed up on farms which risks making an already dire situation far worse.

Higher price

The NPA, with the support of pork processors, is now asking all retailers to immediately increase the price they pay for their pork so producers can at least cover their costs of production and retailers can ensure a continued supply of British pork.

More than £2/kg is needed to allow producers to break even, which is around 70p/kg above the current price they are being paid.

The UK pig price has failed to respond to some dramatic price increases in Europe, where the market has experienced shortages of pigs, following a notable contraction last year.

 

Rob Mutimer 4

Mr Mutimer said: “We need a large and immediate price increase from retailers. Our current pricing mechanism has failed to keep up with the unprecedented events taking place around the world.

“EU pig prices have shot up over the last week or so, leaving the UK trailing behind. This is not something we ask for lightly, but it is now the only way to save the industry’s bacon. 

“Some producers, who have exhausted all financial and emotional reserves over the past year, will be looking ahead to the next few weeks and months and making decisions now.

“In other cases, the decision might be taken out of their hands if they are unable to purchase feed or their banks decide they cannot extend overdrafts any further.

“We are staring down the barrel of a total collapse of the British pig industry, which is not only a tragedy for the producers, themselves, but will leave UK consumers short of one of their favourite and most versatile meats. Retailers will not be able to rely on EU pork, either, as it gets shorter in supply and more expensive.

“They need to act now to ensure that they can continue to secure our high quality British pork - we haven’t got long.”

The association is also reiterating its calls for a financial support package from Defra, as has been provided in other parts of the UK and Europe, and is urging the Department to keep the pressure on retailers to take action now.

Notes to editors

  • The NPA is writing to all retailers to impress upon them the critical nature of this situation and to ask for a greater return for the pork that we supply.
  • AHDB data shows pig producers lost, on average 42p/kg in the final quarter of 2021, equating to £39/pig and the fifth consecutive quarter of losses. Average costs were up 15p to average 193p/kg. Feed costs alone averaged 134p/kg in Q4 but have risen significantly during the current quarter, pushing average losses even higher.
  • Pork prices have increased significantly across the EU in the last week, including the influential German pig price, and are expected to go higher. The UK price (SPP) has failed to respond and now stands at £1.38/kg. 
  • To see which retailers are supporting British pigs through their sourcing policies, CLICK HERE.  

11th

February 2022
Brussels

Industry crisis summit sets foundations for recovery but urgency now needed to save pig sector


February 11, 2022

The pig industry crisis summit, hosted by Farming Minister Victoria Prentis in London yesterday, has delivered some progress by agreeing a coherent plan to ease the pig backlog.

The commitments made by those that took part now need to be acted on and implemented with real urgency to provide desperate pig farmers with some hope for a viable future, according to NPA chairman Rob Mutimer.

“We are grateful to Minister Prentis for bringing all parties - producers, processors, retailers and their trade organisations - together to try and find solutions to this deteriorating situation.

“She certainly recognises the size and the urgency of the problems and there was a real focus on an immediate plan to reduce the current backlog of pigs on farms.

“There was, however, no silver bullet – there was never going to be. The truth is we need more from the supply chain in terms of a workable plan.

“The challenge is to build on what we have got here and ensure every single organisation involved in the supply is focused on getting that backlog down and easing some of the intolerable pressure currently on pig producers.”

Summary of key points

Here are some of the key points to come out of the roundtable meeting:

A plan for the backlog - Minister Prentis has suggested that further groups are convened to look at the logistics of easing the backlog, including the capacity available in individual plants, as the basis for a coherent plan to get more pigs off farms.

Processors said they have been working to full capacity during weekdays, meaning further shifts would have to occur at the weekend. However, Defra’s latest monthly slaughter figures for January suggest extra slaughter capacity is there (see notes, below).

The NPA will be writing to Minister Prentis to ask that processors set out a detailed plan that is regularly updated, including how many pigs they plan to slaughter per week, how many they actually have slaughtered, and the progress in reducing their backlog.

“After six months of this, the least producers can expect is some clarity on the future so they can plan properly – finding out on a Friday night how many pigs are going the next week is simply not good enough,” Mr Mutimer said.

Changes to the Government support package – linked to this, the Government is considering changes to its support package, including allowing fresh pork from pigs slaughtered under the Slaughter Incentive Payment scheme, to be sold on the domestic market. This would help get more pigs through the system and add value to the carcase.

Promoting British pork – the roundtable also discussed the need for retailers to work with processors to stock and promote more British pork as it comes through the system.

Labour shortages - all parts of the supply chain highlighted labour shortages as the primary cause of the problems being experienced by the industry.

While the temporary skilled worker visas have made little impact, with only just over 120 of the 800 visas available used, the NPA and others called for changes to the skilled worker route, including the removal of the unnecessary English language requirement and adding butchers to the shortage occupation list. However, this is not Defra’s policy area and little progress was made.

Minister Prentis did however agree to convene a meeting with the Home Office and interested parties to look at the issues.

Supporting producers – the NPA continues to call for a compensation package for producers who are taking a huge financial hit. Support for struggling pig producers has been made available in Scotland, Northern Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Poland and other European countries so far. There was no commitment from Defra on this.

More encouragingly, with some banks putting pressure on producers, Minister Prentis has pledged to talk to banks to make sure that they ‘look with leniency’ where pig farmers are experiencing difficulties.

Supply chain review - Minister Prentis, as previously flagged by Defra Ministers, has announced an ‘immediate review of Supply Chain Fairness in the pig sector’.

“The effects (of the pig industry crisis) 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,” she said.

Producers need hope

Mr Mutimer added: “This is an animal health and welfare, logistical, financial and mental health crisis all rolled into one. It has been going on for six months without any sign of it coming to an end – we have seen tens of thousands of pigs culled on farms, at least 40 producers have left the industry and the pig herd is contracting rapidly.

“Those that remain need some hope, something to believe in. In reality this is just the start and no more.

“We will continue to push for compensation and, crucially, for changes to allow more butchers to work in the pork industry.

“And, of course, we very much welcome the commitment for a review of pork supply chain. This as an opportunity to forge more stable and fairer contractual relations across the supply chain.”

“But while that is a longer-term issue, our overriding message is the British pig industry is running out of time – this outline plan must be turned into reality without any delay before it is too late.”

Notes to editors

  • Farming Minister Victoria Prentis hosted a roundtable crisis meeting of pig producers, all the major pork processors, all the major UK retailers and various trade bodies at Defra’s London headquarters on Thursday afternoon. This followed a joint request from the NPA and NFU
  • Defra’s latest monthly slaughter figures showed processors killed 986,000 pigs in November, 952,000 in December, but just 873,000 in January. This suggests the extra slaughter capacity is there.
  • The current backlog of pigs on farm is estimated to be at least 200,000. The NPA is aware of 35,000 healthy pigs that have been destroyed on farm, although the true number is likely to be higher.
  • The NPA is aware of 40 independent producers that have left the industry, and 30,000 sows (10%) that have been lost from the English breeding herd.
  • You can read about the depth