December 2015: Time to start loading the 12 bores

So, with prices continuing to drop and general depression around the market, NPA has done what it does best and come out fighting. As I’ve said before, we have been keeping our powder dry, but now is the time for us to start loading those 12 bores! We’re starting with our Christmas GammonWatch, which is highlighting how retailers are doing with their support for British gammons, and is something that every member can and should get involved in.

We’d like reports from across the country covering all of the major retailers, as the evidence that we collect will be gold dust for us when we have our regular retail meetings. So please get out there and start helping! It only takes a couple of minutes to do, and from the reports coming in so far, the situation does not look good. Prices are not going up any time soon, so we need to stimulate more demand – and this is the perfect time to do it.

I have to say the meetings we had earlier this month with Defra’s Secretary of State Liz Truss and farming minister George Eustice went very well. The primary reason for the meetings was to express our concern about Defra’s increasing involvement in how AHDB Pork spends its levy, especially in relation to promotion, and to confirm that our farmers really had been supportive of the pulled pork campaign and how it was run. George was concerned that too much money was being spent on expensive marketing companies, but Liz was all for promotion.

I just hope Liz is able to sort out the Government procurement issue. Currently, Government buying standards state that all meat procured for use by Government departments (and they are hoping to extend this to hospitals, schools and prisons) should be produced to British standards. They even recognise that for pork and chicken, UK welfare standards are more stringent than in the EU, but then perversely use this as a get-out clause.

So if procurers find that British standard pork is prohibitively expensive (as a result of UK Government levying heavier welfare requirements on its farmers), then they can basically switch to EU standard product! Absolutely bonkers! Liz told me that the British Government had committed to only supplying product to British standards by 2020, so they’d best get their skates on and sort it out.

We’ve come under quite a bashing on antibiotic use during the past few weeks following the release of last year’s antibiotic sales data, and the revelation that the pig sector has used more antibiotics despite decreasing herd size (although no mention of the increasing productivity of that herd!).

Our friends at the Soil Association and CIWF pounced on it and started calling for absurd reduction targets and prevention of any preventative use that would result in a huge health and welfare issue. We then have to try and balance the debate, so thank god for the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance that does a good job of providing evidence to help explain the complicated science behind this issue.

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About The Author

Dr Zoë Davies is chief executive of the NPA. For more information visit: www.npa-uk.org.uk