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Why Dover presents an opportunity for great general election win for the main parties

7th Jun 2024 / By Lizzie Wilson

In her latest article in Pig World, NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson sets out the NPA's position ahead of the July 4 general election. 

Lizzie Wilson 22It has been a manic few weeks for the NPA team. We responded to the Fairer Labelling consultation, prepared for the Pig & Poultry Fair, finalised our commercial review of flexible farrowing systems to be released publicly and pulled together an industry position of the use of CO2.

We continued our work on African swine fever (ASF) and the contractual practice legislation and lobbied on the lack of border controls. And I attended the Farm to Fork summit.

So, I naively thought we might finally get a bit of a breather. Oh no, absolutely not. You can imagine my horror as prime minister Rishi Sunak announced the general election for July 4. This was not in the plan!

It does mean, however, that meetings have been cancelled left, right and centre. Some tricky bits of potential legislation – for example, on labelling – will stop immediately, although other legislation that we do want and need, like contractual practice, will also stall due to purdah.

Another consequence is that we will lose Charlie a bit earlier than anticipated as he begins his campaign as the Bridlington and the Wolds constituency Conservative candidate in earnest. I want to thank him for his hard work and political expertise over the past four years and wish him the best of luck for the big day.

British Pig & Poultry Fair

NPA reception 24 2I think everyone was a little apprehensive in the run-up to this year’s fair – a brand-new venue, different days and much more formal and less flexible set-up protocols for exhibitors. But after a busy first day, at the end of which we held our usual informal nibbles and drinks on the stand, the general feedback was very positive. The venue was much more professional and far more accessible than Stoneleigh. As a result, there seemed to be more international visitors, particularly from Ireland.

From a personal and team perspective, I am super proud of everything we achieved at this year’s event, especially the launch of the farrowing systems report, with John Mackinnon giving a brief speech.

Ably supported by Stephen Hall and Tim Miller, he has done a fantastic job and I’m absolutely delighted with the end product, which presents an unrivalled assessment of commercial data on adaptive farrowing systems.

The report will form the cornerstone of a wide and varied body of evidence that puts us ahead of the game and that we can use to formulate an industry blueprint and proposed transition plan when negotiating forthcoming legislation. And considering the recent surprise announcement from No 10, not a moment too soon.

Dover mystery

We used the Pig & Poultry Fair, and my invitation to No 10 (my third time walking through that front door!) to keep pushing the messages on ASF and government’s failure to protect our borders from notifiable disease.

Dover pork seizuresNone of us can get our head round why it abjectly refuses to do anything. All it needs is about £4-5m for Dover Port Health Authority to properly resource its inspection teams to enable them to confiscate illegally imported meat. It would be a great headline ahead of the general election and a win for everyone involved.

We also want to see the current 2kg allowance for personal imports removed. Meanwhile, we still have no detail about the personal imports policy that should have been introduced at the end of April, which we hoped might have gone some way in bridging this chasm, with government quite freely admitting it has no idea how it will work or when we will know more.

This is not just a disease risk, it’s a public food safety issue, too, and undermines all our domestic product. It’s so frustrating.

But this could all change, of course, come July 4. Will a different administration recognise the merit in our requests and opt for a quick win?

Who knows, and while Labour has kept the detail of its manifesto close to its chest, we do at least have a good relationship with the shadow Defra ministerial team, who are always well informed and pragmatic. The hope is they stay in place should Labour win, and we can pick up where we left off in our discussions on border control, contractual practice and, potentially, farrowing systems.

NPA manifesto

With less than four weeks to go until polling day, please use the NPA manifesto, available to download in the Members' Area, to help with key messaging with candidates in your constituency. 

They should be as receptive as they’ll ever be and it’s a great opportunity to highlight the pig sector’s concerns.

And let us know how you get on!