February 2016: How on earth do the dutch keep going?

I’m determined not to fill this column with depressing stats about the state of the industry and what’s shaping up to be the worst start to the year many of us will remember for a long time, so I won’t.

We all knew it was going to be awful in the traditionally depressed period after Christmas, but that doesn’t make it any better. I will, however, use the opportunity to let you know the NPA is working ceaselessly to try and lessen the impact in any way we can, until the underlying fundamentals start to turn round later this year.

Looks like we’re getting media interest following the various press releases that we’ve sent out, and hopefully by the time this issue of Pig World comes out, we’ll have some really good campaigns under way. In addition to attempting to influence consumers, we’re also meeting all major retailers to spell out the future, and with processors to try and find a way forward in this highly unsatisfactory situation.

I’ve heard a few horror stories about insulting prices being offered for pigs, and producers so desperate to get rid of them they’re even considering them. Add to that the state of affairs at some of the processing plants, with regular breakdowns, pigs being rolled, lorries used as mobile lairages and dirty lorries being sent to farms, and we’re heading for trouble. I know some people are desperate now, but we’ll be even more desperate if we get dysentery or some other nasties on our farms – so please have a care before you entertain such things.

I’ve been talking to my Dutch equivalent and trying to find out from him how on earth the Dutch are still in business. The situation appears to be just as bleak out there, and they’re starting to see banks foreclose and businesses shut down; except this time it’s larger businesses, and they aren’t being swallowed up by others as happened before. It’s this contraction that heralds the beginning of a price recovery in the last part of this year.

Of course, the Dutch are in turn worried by the Danes and Spanish, who appear to be carrying on regardless. But don’t you believe it; they may be good, but they can’t walk on water. Trouble is, a few economic illiterates in Britain think they should be able to buy British product at Continental prices. If any of them are reading this, we know who you are and we won’t forget. You should be supporting British pork production, and you know you should.

We’ll be promoting our higher husbandry standards hard to the public during the next few months to encourage them to eat British pork; with that, pig farms are bound to come under the spotlight more than usual.

Following January’s NPA Producer Group meeting, it was suggested that, with the help of our members, we could develop some general housekeeping rules to help remind staff working on farms to keep them looking tip-top. If you wouldn’t be happy to show someone off the street around the farm, then it shouldn’t be left like it.
I’m going back to writing my list of things to have a go at retailers about.

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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